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Carlsbad Residents Submit A Second Round Of Signatures For Lagoon Vote

Photo by Alison St John

Volunteer signature gatherers deliver more than 9,000 signatures to the Carlsbad City Clerk's office, requesting a referendum to overturn approval of the "85/15 Plan" on the shores of the Agua Hedionda Lagoon, Sept 24, 2015.

An issue that has divided the Carlsbad community took a new twist Thursday. Opponents of a proposed shopping center on the Agua Hedionda Lagoon have presented more than 9,000 signatures asking for a referendum to the City Clerk.

An issue that has divided the Carlsbad community took a new twist Thursday.

Opponents of a proposed shopping center on the Agua Hedionda Lagoon have presented more than 9,000 signatures to the City Clerk, asking for a referendum.

This is the second time boxes of signatures have been presented to the Carlsbad City Clerk, asking for a vote on so called "85/15" project — 85 percent of the 200-acre property would be maintained as open space and 15 percent would become an upscale outdoor shopping center.

Earlier this summer, signature gatherers paid by the developer, Caruso Affiliated, collected the names of well over 9,000 registered voters in Carlsbad. They got a vote, but it wasn’t a public vote. The City Council unanimously approved the project in August.

This time, volunteer signature gatherers collected what they hope is more than 10 percent of registered voters — 6,500 signatures — asking for a public referendum to overturn that vote.

Brian McInerny said he collected about 150 signatures from his friends and neighbors.

“The citizens’ initiative that Caruso orchestrated was conducted in a way that misled the people in the community,” Mcinerny said. “They thought by signing his initiative they would have a chance to vote and they did not get a chance to vote.“

Opposition groups have collected around $9,000 to print their referendum petitions, and generated expenses of about $15,000, while the developer has spent more than $2 million to promote the initiative.

Dueling signature gathering efforts have led to some confusion. Paid signature gatherers recently worked to collect forms from people who requested to have their signatures removed from the referendum rolls. The city said 723 of those requests were received.

Photo by Alison St John

The site of the "85/15" development project on Interstate 5 by the Agua Hedionda Lagoon in Carlsbad, Sept. 24, 2015.

Even some residents who like the project say it has not gone through enough rigorous analysis because the developer avoided California’s Environmental Quality Act by using a citizens' initiative.

Carlsbad’s city clerk will count the referendum signatures and then send them on to the Registrar of Voters, who has 30 business days to verify them.

If the signatures are verified, the plan would get another round of scrutiny in a public referendum, which the City Council could choose to put on the November 2016 ballot or send to an earlier special election.

An earlier version of the story said the referendum campaign had raised about $15,000. The campaign reports it haa raised about $9,000, and has generated about $15, in expenses.

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