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Lilac Hills Ranch Is Back For Public Review

Area in Valley Center where Lilac Hills Ranch project is planned, Aug. 30, 2016.

Photo by Alison St John

Above: Area in Valley Center where Lilac Hills Ranch project is planned, Aug. 30, 2016.

The Lilac Hills Ranch development that San Diego County voters defeated two years ago is back on the agenda. The County Planning Department is recirculating an Environmental Impact Report and the public has 45 days to comment.

The plan has the same number of homes — just over 1700 houses — in an area near Valley Center zoned for about 100.

But project manager John Rilling said a critical shortage of affordable housing in the region may have shifted public opinion.

“Under the current zoning you could build 100 five acre mac-mansions that only one percent of the population could buy,” Rilling said. “Lilac Hills Ranch, the majority of the homes will be between $300,000 and $600,000. That’s the critical price point for entry-level buyers, for young families.”

Photo credit: San Diego County

Map showing location of proposed Lilac Hills development.

Rilling said the new Lilac Hills Ranch proposal is similar to the plan that was recommended for approval by the County’s Planning Commission in 2015. However, that plan never went to the County Board of Supervisors for a vote. Supervisor Bill Horn, who was expected to support the development, recused himself from the vote after the California Fair Political Practices Commission concluded it could have a financial impact on his property value.

The developers decided to put a modified version of the project on the ballot instead, but Measure B did not include several of the improvements recommended by the Planning Commission. The initiative failed, with more than 64 percent of voters countywide rejecting it.

Mark Jackson, a local resident and an opponent of the project, said he does not know why the county is reconsidering the project after 735,000 voters rejected it. Opponents are collecting signatures for a ballot initiative to require changes to the County's General Plan to go to a vote of the people.

The developer's project manager, Rilling, said the new Lilac Hills plan now being circulated for public comment is closer to the version approved by the Planning Commission in 2015 than the plan presented in the Initiative in 2016.

“Now it’s a meaningfully better plan than it was back then,” he said. “Now it’s carbon neutral, all the homes are zero net energy, we’re doing off-site road improvements, a new fire station or a remodeled fire station, and a new school.”

The make-up of the County Board of Supervisors has also changed. In 2016, then Supervisor Dave Roberts, a Democrat, was replaced by Republican Kristin Gaspar.

A public meeting will be held on the recirculated Draft Revised EIR on March 15 at 6:00 p.m. at the Valley Center Branch of the San Diego County Library on Cole Grade Road in Valley Center.

The public has till April 9th to comment on the plan.

The County’s Planning Department said the project could come before the supervisors for a vote in early 2019. Supervisors Ron Roberts and Bill Horn will be termed out and their seats will be up for election this November.

The Lilac Hills Ranch development that San Diego County voters defeated two years ago is back on the agenda, and a favorable vote by the County Board of Supervisors could bring it back to life.

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