Escondido, CA
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Town Hall Meeting becomes a hushing session

Some residents object to recycled water plant in their neighborhood

Proposed appearance of the water plant that is aesthetically designed to attempt to match the appearance of the housing area surrounding the facility.

Proposed appearance of the water plant that is aesthetically designed to attempt to match the appearance of the housing area surrounding the facility.

This past Wednesday’s Escondido Town Hall Meeting primarily focused on one thing: the development of a water distribution plant proposal zoned to be built within a residential zone. Town Hall meetings are held quarterly and are hosted by Mayor Sam Abed. Often city staff members, such as the city manager, also attend.

Editor’s Note: Escondido city council May 25 will consider overturning an April decision by the Planning Commission that denied a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) to the city to develop a facility to provide advanced treatment of recycled water that the city’s Hale Avenue Resource Recovery Facility (HARRF) produces for agricultural use. That impending hearing by the city council was the subject most residents chose to discuss at Wednesday’s Town Hall meeting.

As attending residents of the housing communities surrounding Washington Avenue were outraged that the city council members could even consider putting a industrial facility just 20 feet away from homes, Mayor Sam Abed pleaded with the community to wait for this week’s city council meeting to discuss their concerns about the building and the approvals of construction.

More than 20 community members were present Wednesday to discuss their concerns for the dramatic loss in equity and property value that they believe would occur if the industrial building is placed near their community.

City plans state that the building will be constructed 20 feet from property lines. A large concern is also the hazard to safety it would cause for the people living near the area as hundreds of gallons of chemicals will be stored and used at the facility: Sodium Hypochlorite, Liquid Ammonium Sulfate, Sulfuric Acid and Sodium Hydroxide.

“It’s nothing more than chlorine bleach,” explained Jay Paul, of the city’s planning division, who was also at the town hall meeting.

City staff is proposing that an industrial zone be established for the building of this 37 foot water plant that is away from homes and retail businesses, as specific areas of Escondido are large enough to responsibly develop and maintain a structure of this size and purpose, and so that there is an area designated for further development of industrial facilities as the community continues to grow.

The purpose of this water plant is for the distribution and sale of water to San Diego Zoo Safari Park, Eagle Crest Golf Courses, Oak Hill Memorial Park, agricultural facilities and other industrial purposes.

Diane Belnap, a community member being affected by this construction proposal told the Times-Advocate after the meeting, “It went as I expected. I knew that he [Mayor Abed] would get defensive, and he did, and he tried to downplay our concerns and I feel that there’s a hidden agenda with the council and what they’re trying to do with this project.

Belnap added, “I feel like

Image provided by the site plan for this specific facility project showing construction area surrounded by residential homes directly off of Washington Avenue.

Image provided by the site plan for this specific facility project showing construction area surrounded by residential homes directly off of Washington Avenue.

it’s going to be a tough fight. One of the issues that we did not bring up that we will bring up the following week is that this project actually does not qualify for a conditional use permit. The only allowable permit for a residential R-1 zone is a water storage facility. This is not a water storage facility. This is a water treatment filtration plant. It is a large industrial building… 2 buildings. It will be 37 feet high.”

To be present and involved in the City Councils decisions towards the construction of this industrial building and to take part in the concerned publics presentation for the council at the public hearing, visit City Hall on Wednesday at 4:30 pm. To take part in the discussion as a presenting participant, submit a speaking slip before the item can be heard.

“There is a process in place and everything is transparent. I encourage you to go to the website and see the projects we have in our city. We can sometimes deny a project based on quality. We have voted down many projects,” said Mayor Sam Abed, as he was concluding the Town Hall Meeting, “We need to wait for the public hearing.”

This reporter interviewed Mayor Abed. He said, “There is always controversial issues in this city and I like to hear about the controversial issues. We have to engage the community and I think this is the only forum and setting where we can engage the residents with the dialogue. I’m sure they learned a lot about our process. Controversy is good. We have had so many in the past but if we don’t have these issues then there would be no compromise.”

City Council Meetings are aired every Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. on Cox Communications Channel 19 for Escondido only and through live web streaming directly from the city website. The City Council video library can be viewed at escondido.12milesout.com/ Meetings are also archived and available for viewing online in the Public Meeting Video Library at www.escondido.org/meeting-schedule.aspx

Subscribe to City Council Agenda postings at www.escondido.org/ meeting-agendas.aspx

As the city’s official web site is a month behind on posting council meeting minutes anyone can subscribe to Council Meeting Minute postings at www.escondido.org/meeting-minutes. aspx

The Escondido city clerk Diane Halverson, saw our article posted on the website and sent us this comment about city council meeting minutes: “Meeting minutes are posted as soon as they are approved. For example, the approval of the May 4 minutes would normally be placed on the May 18 agenda, which is posted on Thursday, May 12. However, the next available Council Meeting is May 25 and that agenda was posted on May 19. Once the minutes are approved, they are posted the next day. Hopefully, this explains our process.” ~ Diane Halverson


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