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Backcountry Property Values And The County’s New General Plan

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Aired 12/14/09

San Diego County Supervisors hope to approve a new plan for growth in the back country next year. But thousands of rural property owners want to be compensated if their property loses value.

San Diego County Supervisors hope to approve a new plan for growth in the back country next year. But thousands of rural property owners want to be compensated if their property loses value.

San Diego County’s future plan for growth in rural East County would lower the number of new homes that could be built there by 37,000.

Randy Lenac of Save Our Rural Economy says that means properties that were zoned for 20 or 30 homes might now be allowed to build only one or two.

“To go to these densities will essentially strip over 80 percent of the current density off of the land,” Lenac said.

Lenac says the county should find a way to compensate property owners by allowing them to sell their density rights to other property owners where more building is allowed.

But Devon Muto, Chief of Advanced Planning at the County, says, while this would work in areas where development rights can be swapped, it would not work in San Diego.

“Under out General Plan Update, we have an overall reduction in density and growth,” Muto explains. “In fact, we are looking at a reduction of 90,000 people in capacity for the overall unincorporated area. So that is not something we can trade with, if we are taking it off the books.”

Muto says the county is studying what it would cost to reimburse farmers to preserve agricultural land, but there is no funding source for other rural property owners affected by the General Plan Update.

Lenac says his group wants the county to restore some of the density zoning.

“What we’re asking them to do is not to add back the 37,000 units, everybody realized many of those were phantom units.” Lenac said. “What we’re asking them to do is to add back about 60 percent of what it originally was.”

County planners say that would would set back the General Plan Update by two years.

The Planning Commission will consider the issue early next year.

The Update has been in the works for more than ten years and the Board of Supervisors are anxious to have it completed in 2010.

The Plan Update is already facing challenges from different interest groups. The State Attorney General says San Diego County has not adequately addressed the question of how to combat climate change, as it adds thousands of new residences in the backcountry.

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