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Carlsbad Residents Confused By Dueling Signature Campaigns

Photo by Alison St John

The strawberry fields east of Interstate Five in Carlsbad, where the proposed Agua Hedionda 85/15 Project would be built, Aug. 5, 2015

Carlsbad residents are reeling from dueling signature-gathering campaigns. Next week is the final week of a petition drive to gather signatures to require a vote on plans to build a shopping center on the Agua Hedionda lagoon.

Signature gatherers are in the final week of a petition drive in Carlsbad. But dueling campaigns have left many residents confused.

Volunteer signature gatherers are making a final push this week to collect signatures for a referendum. They want a public vote on developer Caruso Affiliated’s plan to build a shopping center next to strawberry fields on the Agua Hedionda lagoon.

The Carlsbad City Council unanimously approved the plan last month by choosing not to put the initiative behind the plan to a public vote. The Council said the land is slated for development and Caruso Affiliated has done a good job of engaging the community in the project.

But DeAnn Weimer of the group Citizens for North County, which opposes the development, said many people signed the original initiative assuming they would be able to vote on it. She said along with the volunteer signature-gathering for the referendum, residents are also being faced with paid signature gatherers asking people to sign a paper that withdraws their name from the referendum.

"People get into arguments on the street corners," Weimer said. "We’ll have one of the Caruso Affiliated petitioners on one side of the store and then we’ll have one of our real referendum people on the other side. It’s just very confusing to people."

Weimer said one resident — typical of many residents — confessed she was completely confused.

“She said, 'I’m not going to sign anything, I’m terrified because every time I sign something I find out it isn’t what I thought I’d signed.'“

The deadline to collect signatures from 10 percent of Carlsbad registered voters, which would call for a referendum, arrives this coming Thursday.

Weimer said Citizens for North County is not supported by any competing developer. Westgate expressed disappointment at the city council's decision but has not joined forces with community groups that are opposed to the project.

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