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Carlsbad Voters Will Soon Decide On Shopping Center Proposed For Lagoon

Photo by Alison St John

The site of a new outdoor mall proposed by Caruso Affiliated on the south side of the Agua Hedionda Lagoon in Carlsbad, May 12, 2015.

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To argue the proposition that there's nothing more contentious, or complicated, than land use, Carlsbad's upcoming special election would be exhibit A.

Or Measure A, to be exact.

The land in question is about 200 acres just off the Interstate 5 on Cannon Road. The developer, Caruso Affiliated of Los Angeles, has spent more than $7 million to tout their "85/15" plan, which puts an upscale shopping and dining center on the 15 percent of the parcel which fronts the Agua Hediondo Lagoon. It leaves the rest of the land open.

Opponents, primarily Citizens for North County, say the plan is too big and too dense for the area, will increase traffic and the preserved open space was already safe from development.

Bryce Ross, the vice president of development for Caruso Affiliated, told KPBS Midday Edition the measure is meant to benefit residents of Carlsbad. He said it would further protect open space, because the current definition allows several types of civic buildings.

"Measure A sets that open space free from buildings, except for two," he said. "That is the farm stand for the Carlsbad Strawberry Company and the farm-to-table restaurant, which makes agriculture sustainable for generations to come."

But DeAnn Weimer with Citizens for North County said that was a "completely inaccurate description of the proposal."

She said Measure A would bring 12 to 13 million people to Carlsbad "and this precious reserve" and would increase traffic and congestion. She also said it would redefine open space to allow flat level parking and "eight lanes of roadway."

Ross countered that studies have found traffic will flow better under Measure A's proposed changes.

Caruso gathered enough signatures to place a "Citizens' Initiative" for the project on the ballot. It passed, thus avoiding a review under the California Environmental Quality Act.

He said avoiding the environmental review was "perfectly legal," and that Caruso decided to go that route because groups like Citizens for North County abuse CEQA laws to stop development. Weimer said other entities, including the city of Carlsbad, use CEQA to stop projects as well.

The complex dance continued when opponents gathered enough signatures to place a referendum on the initiative on the ballot.

And so here we are, if you're still following all this.

Voting begins Jan. 25. The final day to vote is Feb. 23.

An earlier version of this story said Bryce Ross told KPBS Midday Edition Measure A would not benefit his company. He did not say that phrase.


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