With its decision to have voters weigh in on Lilac Hills Ranch, a sprawling housing project in Valley Center, the project’s developers don’t just see a more viable path to approval – they also see a way around many of the issues that have long dogged the project.
Lilac Hills Ranch tried going through the county’s normal permitting and environmental review process for nearly 11 years – spending more than $3 million on fees and doing three environmental impact reports, according to Accretive Investments.
But at the end of last year, two obstacles made Accretive opt instead for a countywide voter initiative.
One was word that Supervisor Bill Horn, who was expected to vote in favor of the project, would recuse himself from the County Board of Supervisors’ vote on the project. He had a conflict of interest, a state watchdog determined, because he owns nearby property that would become more valuable if the project were approved. The other was a November decision by the California Supreme Court on another large, sprawling development in the Los Angeles area that left all similar projects statewide uncertain as to how they should measure and disclose their potential greenhouse gas emissions.
Lilac Hills Ranch is currently gathering signatures to qualify for the ballot. If it gathers enough, the Board of Supervisors could choose to adopt it outright or send it to voters in November.
The project would build 1,746 homes in a mostly rural area where current restrictions allow only 110 homes to be built. Accretive says the development would alleviate regional housing costs.
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As a Valley Center resident this really upsets me. It's all about a way for someone to make money. Valley Center can not sustain this type of project. We don't have the infrastructure for it and we don't want it. I moved here to get away from the city and more people. I don't want more people brought to me. The traffic getting into and out of Valley Center is ridiculous now. I can't even imagine adding 15,000 more daily car trips compared to our current 1,300. In the event of another fire or emergency people will not be able to get out of here, causing more deaths or injuries. Plus they want to forfeit another fire station??? Are you kidding me??? A response time of 7-9 minutes instead of 5 can mean someone's life. That extra couple minutes could be important. What if it was their family and friends that would die as a result? Do you think that would fly?? Absolutely not. This whole project is asinine and I can't believe these money hungry ignorant developers won't take no for an answer. Move your ridiculous project elsewhere. It's not wanted here.
I think a map should be posted here. A map of the project as it is placed in the surrounding area and a flow chart of proposed traffic.
The Initiative and Referendum, originally conceived of and used as tools for the people to contest unrepresentative legislatures, are now primarily a tool used by the corporate class to contest legislation the people approve of, but that thwarts the corporatists.
This Initiative by Excretive Investments is an example of the total perversion of the original intent of the Initiative.
I find exceedingly offensive - and exceedingly concerning in the larger picture - Lilac Hills Ranch developers' effort to nullify any rule or regulation or law they don't like. This would pose a horrendous example if the measure made it on the ballot and voters approved it. The precedent that could be set is that anyone with enough money and a good PR outreach could potentially nullify any law, regulation or rule they dislike, not necessarily limited to land use issues.
Of course, the successful push-back by Carlsbad voters, though by a thin margin, shows that there are many people who will recognize the dangerous precedents which approving the Lilac Hill Ranch that someday could be wielded against their own communities. Voters need to wake up and see the many ways in which our legal rights are being encroached on or nullified every day in too many ways.
@Judith Swink Well said Judith Swink.
The legislature should quickly correct this grave legal error by the state supreme court. Real estate developers are trying to use this as a license for larceny. The interpret this decision as saying that if a developer can convince enough ignorant voters to approve an initiative custom written by the developers lawyers, they can violate any number of state laws, don't have to mitigate
any environmental damage their proposed development may cause, and cannot be held responsible for any other harm their project causes to the environment or public health. Want to develop a radioactive nuclear waste dump in the county? Just get your lawyers to write an initiative and pay professional signature gatherers to collect enough petitions to put it on the ballot. Then spend a few million on slick political ads and infomercials, and voila, a new waste dump is born. The Governor and California legislature need to stop this ugly trend in its tracks.