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County Supervisors Vote to Prepare Final Draft Of New General Plan

San Diego County Supervisor Bill Horn failed in a bid to weaken the land use regulations in the County’s new general plan. The plan is the blueprint for growth outside San Diego’s cities over the next 40 years.

After more than a decade of public hearings, the supervisors are expected to vote in August on the plan, which will determine where housing can be built for another 200,000 people expected to live in the unincorporated areas by 2050. It permits future growth closer to existing urban areas, and restricts development in outlying rural areas.

In the past, restricting development in the backcountry was supported primarily by environmentalists. Now, new state laws that require counties to reduce greenhouse gas emissions have added weight to policies that limit sprawl.

San Diego County is also faced with requirements to build new fire stations it cannot afford, if there is major development in outlying areas. Limited groundwater also restricts where new houses can be built.

Bill Horn represents unincorporated areas near Interstate-15 north of Escondido, where developers have their eye on farm land and open space. Horn proposed changes that would give the board more wiggle room to approve projects that don’t fit the new plan.

But Supervisor Diane Jacob, who represents rural East County, said developers don’t want more uncertainty.

“What I’ve heard over and over is they want certainty in the process,” she said. “If we put words in like, ‘maybe,’ ‘if you want to,’ ‘possibly,’ there’s no 'certainty' in our process and no one can rely on anything in the general plan.”

The plan increases land use density on about 10 percent of parcels, and decreases permitted development on about 20 percent of properties. Zoning on 70 percent of the parcels remains unchanged.

More than 200 property owners -- that’s about 1 percent of all those who own land in the unincorporated areas -- asked for changes to the new zoning regulations that will affect their property.

The Board of Supervisors approved dozens of minor last minute changes to the land use plan, in preparation for a final vote -- possibly in August.

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