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Roberts Acts On Merriam Mountains Project

The Supervisor will have to show his hand in March

A majority of the San Diego County Board of Supervisors has voted to give the Merriam Mountains project on Interstate 15 a second hearing.

The development is the largest new housing proposal awaiting approval in San Diego County right now. There are several others further up Interstate 15 waiting in the wings.

The supervisors deadlocked 2-2 on the vote last month, while Supervisor Ron Roberts was away in Sacramento at a State Air Resources Board meeting. If left at that, the tie vote would have killed Merriam Mountains, a master-planned development of 2,600 homes in the hills north of San Marcos.

Roberts had 30 days to call a new hearing. He waited till the last moment -- last Friday-- to announce he would support another hearing.

“I guess I secretly hoped that somehow my colleagues would get this resolved in one way shape or form,” Roberts said at this week’s meeting. “And that didn’t happen.”

Roberts faces a potentially tough election battle from democratic challengers this year, and his tie-breaking vote on the development will be politically significant.

Supervisor Dianne Jacob had voted against the project along with Pam Slater Price.

“I think this is a very curious and suspicious move,” Jacob said. “I don’t think it’s needed. I think all the issues have been raised, all the questions have been answered.”

Jacob and Slater Price voted against holding another hearing, and Supervisors Bill Horn and Greg Cox joined Roberts to vote for it.

Dozens of people testified for and against giving the project a second chance.

Opponents argued it contradicts the County’s own General Plan, which calls for fewer than 100 houses on the site. They said there are unresolved problems of water shortages, fire risks and unmitigated noise and dust.

Supporters said the County needs to find places to house future population growth, and that new construction jobs would be a boon in the current economy.

The new hearing will be on March 24, 2010.

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