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State Watchdog Tells Horn — Again — Not to Vote on Lilac Hills Ranch Project

California’s Fair Political Practices Commission has advised once again that County Supervisor Bill Horn must recuse himself from an upcoming vote on the Lilac Hills Ranch project in Valley Center.

California’s Fair Political Practices Commission has advised once again that County Supervisor Bill Horn must recuse himself from an upcoming vote on the Lilac Hills Ranch project in Valley Center.

The state agency had ruled in October that Horn couldn’t vote on a massive project planned about two miles away from his 34-acre property.

Horn appealed to the state agency to reconsider its decision. In December, Horn requested that the state agency also consider additional information provided by the Sutton Law Firm, which also represents the Lilac Hills Ranch developer.

But the agency didn’t budge.

“We believe your request for reconsideration provides some additional facts, but they are essentially the same facts that the first advice letter considered,” wrote Hyla Wagner, FPPC general counsel, in her letter to the supervisor. “Rather you dispute the application of the law to the facts you provided and the legal conclusions reached in the prior letter.”

Horn said he was “disappointed once again with the FPPC’s recommendation” and would consult with County Counsel to figure out his next move, according to the Union-Tribune.

Horn had originally sought the input of the state Fair Political Practices Commission over whether he could vote on the Lilac Hills project in September, following a Voice of San Diego investigation that revealed he might have a conflict of interest over the project and a change in FPPC policies that classified his nearby property as a potential conflict.

The developer of Lilac Hills Ranch, Accretive Investments, as pursued the project tirelessly for the last 10 years. It would construct 1,700 homes and amenities in a predominantly rural area 45 miles north of the city of San Diego. Because current development restrictions would only allow Accretive to build about 100 homes on the land, the project requires special approval from the County Board of Supervisors before it can move forward.

In September, the Planning Commission recommended the county approve the project, with caveats that it better address fire and eminent domain issues that were also brought up in the Voice of San Diego investigation.

The supervisors were scheduled to vote on the project in October, but the hearing was postponed to wait for the FPPC’s response to Horn’s appeal. A new date has not yet been set.

The development would effectively urbanize and vastly improve the infrastructure in the largely undeveloped area, inflating the value of nearby properties by making them more developable, the FPPC determined in October.

Horn’s property is designated as an agricultural preserve for the next 10 years. But if Lilac Hills Ranch were approved, it would not be fully built out for 10 years, meaning that his property would potentially be able to reap the economic benefits of the large development after it was built.

Lilac Hills Ranch is also the first of several proposed projects in North County in largely undeveloped areas near the I-15.

For these reasons, the FPPC said, such changes to the area “are foreseeable and would not be merely hypothetical or theoretical.”

“Under these facts, a reasonable inference can be made that the financial effect of such a major development in a relatively undeveloped, rural area would have a reasonably foreseeable material financial effect on the market value of your real property,” Wagner said. “Therefore, you have a conflict of interest in decisions involving the Project and you must recuse yourself from participating in these decisions.”

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