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Lilac Hills Ranch Is Still Alive

Voters roundly rejected a measure in November that would have greenlit the sprawling Lilac Hills Ranch project near Valley Center. But Accretive Investments, the project’s developers, submitted paperwork last week to San Diego County’s planning department that could keep the project alive.

The developers behind Lilac Hills Ranch still aren’t ready to take “no” for an answer.

Accretive Investments, developers of the suburban sprawl project of 1,700 homes and retail shops in the hills of Valley Center, submitted paperwork last week to San Diego County’s planning department that could keep the project alive.

Voters trounced Lilac Hills in November. Roughly 63 percent of the county rejected the ballot measure that would have greenlit the project.

That came after the developers for years ducked and dived around a series of obstacles. The last of those was a state watchdog forcing Supervisor Bill Horn to recuse himself from voting on the project, because building it would increase the value of land he owns nearby.

But even when it sent the project to voters, Accretive never withdrew Lilac Hills from consideration by the county.

Now, they’ve taken a step to ensure the project remains active, should they decide to make another push for the County Board of Supervisors to approve it.

The county got a new permit for stormwater management from the Regional Water Quality Control Board last year.

Every project submitted to the county before that happened without being finalized now needs to prove its stormwater control plans meet the new standards, said Alex Bell, a program manager for the county’s land use and environment section.

“This keeps them active,” she said. “Right now, it’s one thing they would be required to update as part of the county’s process.”

She said the county hasn’t received anything else from the developers about the project or their plans moving forward.

Representatives from Accretive did not respond to opportunities to comment.

The project, though, is somewhat different than the one that voters rejected in November.

In 2015, when Accretive was still pushing for county supervisors to approve the project – before Horn’s recusal and before a state Supreme Court ruling that impacts sprawl developments – they went before the county’s Planning Commission.

The Planning Commission recommended the project be project, but only if the developers agreed to build a new fire station and school, and make upgrades to roads in and around the development.

The plan that went before voters didn’t include those changes; the one that Accretive has kept active with its submission last week does.

While the supervisors never came had to vote on the project, they did vote to put it on the ballot.

For that vote, Horn recused himself. Supervisors Ron Roberts and Greg Cox seemed to speak in favor of the project; Roberts implored everyone to think carefully before denying housing amid the county’s housing crisis.  Supervisor Dianne Jacob and former Supervisor Dave Roberts seemed less enthused, warning of the precedent both a sprawl development – and planning via ballot box – might set in the county.

Dave Roberts since lost his re-election bid to Supervisor Kristin Gaspar. Gaspar has not spoken directly about the project because she may vote on it in the future.

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