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Planning Commission To Vote On Rural North San Diego County Development

Photo credit: San Diego County

Map showing location of proposed Lilac Hills development.

A major challenge to San Diego County’s blueprint for growth in rural areas comes before the Planning Commission Friday. Both the developer and the project’s opponents say the Lilac Hills project would set a precedent.

A major challenge to San Diego County’s blueprint for growth in rural areas comes before the Planning Commission Friday. Both the developer and the project’s opponents say the Lilac Hills project would set a precedent.

Lilac Hills has become a catalyst for debate over just how flexible the county’s General Plan for future growth should be. Lilac Hills would build a new community the size of Del Mar on agricultural land, 18 miles north of Escondido.

Jeff Powers — spokesman for the developer, Accretive Investments — said the project is a model master planned community.

"Not only does it meet the standards, but it is going to be a model for future development," he said. "There's a lot of development that is coming down the pipeline to meet the housing needs of the community."

Powers said although the number of vehicle trips in the area would increase if the project is built, the trips would be shorter.

More than 40 developments in the pipeline in unincorporated areas are asking supervisors to amend the county General Plan, finalized just four years ago.

Diane Coombs was on the advisory group that spent 13 years working on the plan. She said county supervisors need to honor it, because there is no shortage of space to build needed housing in other areas specified in the plan, closer to the existing village of Valley Center.

"If they proceed to make a bunch of amendments approving projects that are urban sprawl, it will also doom their efforts to get a legally defensible climate action plan," Coombs said.

Potential conflicts of interest

Attorneys for Accretive Investments sent a letter Thursday to County Counsel, alleging a conflict of interest on the part of Planning Commissioner Michael Beck, who was appointed by Supervisor Dianne Jacob. The attorneys say Beck should not be allowed to vote because he is on the board of the Endangered Habitat’s League, and draws a salary there. The Endangered Habitats League has taken a public stand against the Lilac Hills project.

Beck said he is a board member at EHL but does not draw a salary. He said his votes on the County Planning Commission have sometimes differed from the position taken by the league. He said his salary comes from his role on the board of the Endangered Habitat Conservancy, which focuses on land acquisition, stewardship and resource monitoring.

Questions have also been raised about a possible conflict of interest for County Supervisor Bill Horn, whose property near Lilac Hills could increase in value if the project is built.

The supervisors will consider the Planning Commission recommendation when they take their final vote, expected next month.

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