North County Report: Developer vs. Nature Fights Rage On

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North County Report: Developer vs. Nature Fights Rage On

Developers keep eyeing North County’s most fire-prone areas, Caruso’s mall project gets a green light and why it’s hard out there for an urban chicken in Encinitas.

Will the county government force private landowners to sell their property to the developer who wants to build Lilac Hills Ranch, a 600-acre community with 1,700 homes in the rural area northwest of Valley Center? That’s the question VOSD’s Maya Srikrishnan and Andy Keatts explore in a new article on the controversial project.

Accretive Investments executives have told residents that they don’t want or need to use eminent domain to complete Lilac Hills Ranch, but county staff seem to disagree, and a local planning group is demanding roads be widened if the project is approved. Wider roads might eventually require the county to use its eminent domain power.

Access into and out of such developments is especially crucial when you consider the area’s high risk of wildfire, which is one county planners have tried to discourage backcountry developments such as Lilac Hills Ranch. Last year’s Cocos Fire – which destroyed 40 homes in North County and caused millions of dollars’ worth of damage – was a harsh reminder of the threat. Nonetheless, another developer, Integrated Communities, wants to build 326 homes on land that is still visibly charred from that fire.

In an article highlighting multiple projects proposed in North County’s fire-prone spaces, Srikrishnan and Keatts write: “The county is a wick, and wicks burn. Officials can manage it, but they’ll never erase the risk.”

The Mall on the Lagoon Is a Go

The Carlsbad City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to skip a ballot referendum and simply OK Caruso Affiliated’s plan to build a shopping mall on 27 acres near the south shore of the Agua Hedionda Lagoon. The proposal also permanently designates another 173 acres, including the famed strawberry fields, as open space.

The meeting was inundated with people – both supporters and opponents of the project – and a record 133 of them spoke at the podium, according to the Seaside Courier.

The plan will now be sent to the California Coastal Commission for review.

Library Upgrades

• Don’t bother visiting Carlsbad’s Georgina Cole Library for the next five months; it’ll be closed for repairs. The city’s Dove Library and the Library Learning Center are still open for those who need their library fix. (Union-Tribune)

• Escondido officials are considering asking voters to approve a $50 million bond to expand the library there. (Union-Tribune)

What Public Workers Make

• The top managers at the Del Mar Fairgrounds are underpaid compared with their counterparts in Sacramento and Orange County, according to a new compensation study. State officials have the final say on the managers’ pay in Del Mar. (Del Mar Times)

• Unionized city employees in Oceanside will get a 4.5 percent pay raise, while non-union employees will get a 2.5 raise. The mayor and Council members will also get a substantial raise – after the 2016 elections. (Seaside Courier)

Animals, Keep Out

• Encinitas leaders are considering a new urban agriculture ordinance that would make it easier to keep chickens, goats and bees on residential property and to sell farm produce at small neighborhood stands. One local business group has described the proposal as “dangerous, filthy and intrusive,” the Coast News reports. The city’s Planning Commission wants more time to mull it over. (Encinitas Advocate)

• Four San Diego-area cities, including Oceanside and Encinitas, recently have adopted ordinances that ban the retail sale of commercially bred dogs; San Marcos recently adopted a moratorium on new pet shops. Animal rights activists are now encouraging Vista to adopt similar rules.

More News Bits

• It’s always been tough to park in the beach communities. In downtown Oceanside, it’s been even tougher since 276 parking spaces were removed to make way for several new buildings. Local business owners say they’re suffering. (Union-Tribune)

• The San Diego Botanic Garden in Encinitas just got a $2.1 million infusion to improve its facilities, including a renovation of the historic home of the garden’s founders. County Supervisor Dave Roberts says it’s the largest single investment made in the garden. (Encinitas Advocate)

• A former employee of the North County Transit District lost the gender bias lawsuit she filed against the agency in 2013. One juror interviewed by inewsource said the jury was sympathetic to the plaintiff but felt the evidence in her case was too weak. Encinitas City Councilman Tony Kranz, who also serves on the North County Transit District board, spoke at length about the case and about inewsource’s ongoing coverage of management issues at the agency.

• A new story in The Intercept by VOSD contributor Kelly Davis about how police deal with race and mental illness highlights a 2012 case in which Oceanside police shot and killed a young black man who was apparently suffering from a psychotic break.

• Beginning in December, Escondido will host North County’s first year-round homeless shelter, organized by Interfaith Community Services without any government funding. (Union-Tribune)

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