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Economy

San Diego County Supervisor Addresses Question Of Potential Conflict Of Interest

A portrait of Bill Horn, county supervisor for District 5, Jan. 5, 2015.
Angela Carone
A portrait of Bill Horn, county supervisor for District 5, Jan. 5, 2015.

Map of the location of Supervisor Bill Horn's property in relation to the proposed Lilac Hills development, which is west of Valley Center. September 2015.
Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger
Map of the location of Supervisor Bill Horn's property in relation to the proposed Lilac Hills development, which is west of Valley Center. September 2015.

San Diego County Supervisor Bill Horn could well be the key vote on the precedent-setting Lilac Hills development project, but questions remain unresolved over his potential conflicts of interest.

The California Fair Political Practices Commission said it will take “a few weeks” to respond to a letter from Horn, requesting advice on his potential conflicts of interest on a major land use vote. The vote on the controversial Lilac Hills project is tentatively scheduled for Oct. 14.

Attorneys for the Cleveland National Forest Foundation said building more than 1,000 homes on agricultural land near Horn’s 35-acre property would increase his property value. They wrote this week to County Counsel, asking that Horn recuse himself from the vote.

Horn’s office subsequently revealed the supervisor wrote his letter asking for advice from the Fair Political Practices Commission last week.

County Supervisor Bill Horn's letter to the Fair Political Practices Commission
County Supervisor Bill Horn wrote a letter to the California Fair Political Practices Commission asking for guidance on a controversial vote.
To view PDF files, download Acrobat Reader.

The proposed Lilac Hills development is within Horn’s district, and less than two miles from his backcountry home where he grows avocado and fruit trees.

Horn argues his property is bound by the Williamson Act, which would prevent him from developing his land for at least a decade.

CNFF attorney Erin Chalmers said that does not remove the potential conflict of interest.

“Just because he has to wait a few years, by the time the project starts to actually get built, that would be a good time for him to subdivide and develop,” Chalmers said.

Chalmers' letter also mentions the increased traffic on roads surrounding Horn’s property as being a potential conflict of interest, as it could impede evacuation in the event of a fire.

Letter for the San Diego County Counsel Regarding Potential Conflict Of Interest
Attorneys for the Cleveland National Forest Foundation wrote a letter to the County Counsel stating building more than 1,000 homes on agricultural land near Supervisor Bill Horn’s 35-acre property would increase his property value.
To view PDF files, download Acrobat Reader.

Horn writes in his letter that this is not a conflict for him, since traffic studies show that if the project were built, there would be on average one car every 35 seconds on West Lilac Road, rather than the current rate of one car every 75 seconds.

The vote on Lilac Hills is considered to be precedent-setting since it is the first major amendment to the county’s General Plan for growth, passed four years ago. That plan calls for a little more than 100 homes to be built on the land where developer, Accretive Investments, is petitioning to build 1,700.

Horn has received tens of thousands of dollars in recent years from Accretive.

When asked if the county might delay the date of the vote if the Fair Political Practices Commission has not delivered its advice, county spokesman Mike Workman said that has not been decided, “but from what I have heard, this is a non-issue.“

Attorneys for Accretive Investments raised questions about whether County Planning Commissioner Michael Beck had a conflict of interest when he voted against the project earlier this month. In that case, the FPPC was not involved and county counsel did not require him to recuse himself.