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Supervisors Reevaluate Zoning In General Plan Update

Aired 1/11/12 on KPBS News.

Millions of dollars in property values hang in the balance this week, as San Diego County Supervisors consider requests to up-zone or down-zone more than 100 parcels. The board is making last minute tweaks to its General Plan for future growth in the unincorporated areas.

Dozens of unhappy property owners asked the board to reconsider the development rights assigned to their land, under the county’s new General Plan Update.

Gerald Church owns a nursery in North County. He said he uses his property value as collateral for bank loans, and if it’s down-zoned, the bank won’t give him the lines of credit he needs to run the business.

“That’s why I’m requesting you reconsider the zoning you do to my property, “ Church told the board, “ not because I want to develop it, but because I want to keep getting loans, keep employing people and keep running my nursery. “

The board asked staff to see if the landowners’ requests would make minor, moderate or major changes to the underlying principals of the General Plan. The plan was years in the making and major changes would require going back to the drawing board.

North County Supervisor Bill Horn supported every request to increase development rights. One was a request from Newlands, the developer whose Merriam Mountain development was rejected by the board over a year ago. The up-zoning requested would be a major violation of the principals of the General Plan.

Horn asked the staff to work with the land owner and see if they could reach a compromise that would constitute only a moderate modification of the General Plan.

East County Supervisor Dianne Jacob objected strongly.

“The is a very contentious piece of property,” Jacob said. “ I think the most appropriate way to proceed on this, for the benefit of the public and the property owner, is a privately initiated plan amendment. I will not support spending one dime of tax payer money on processing this.”

The board vote was split in some case, but the majority supported sending almost every request back to the staff to see if a compromise can be reached.

It will likely take more than a year to resolve all the issues.

Devon Muto, chief of Advanced Planning at the county, said some property owners - like the owners of the massive, undeveloped Rancho Guejito east of Escondido - withdrew their request for a zoning change. They are already suing the County over the General Plan.

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