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Language Of Proposed Valley Center Housing Project Ballot Challenged

Photo by Alison St John

Area in Valley Center where Lilac Hills Ranch project is planned, Aug. 30, 2016.

Supporters of the Lilac Hills Ranch development ballot initiative, which would approve the construction of 1,700 homes on semi-rural farmland north of Escondido, say the arguments against the project “completely disregard the truth.”

Supporters of the Lilac Hills Ranch development ballot initiative, or Measure B, plan to challenge the opposition’s ballot statement, calling the arguments “false and misleading."

Since most voters won’t read the 600-page ballot initiative describing the proposed housing development in Valley Center, the wording of the short arguments for and against are important.

Measure B would approve 1,700 homes to be built on semi-rural farmland north of Escondido and east of Interstate 15.

In a legal request for a writ of mandate to change the argument, supporters of Measure B said the arguments against the project “completely disregard the truth.”

“For example the initiative does not exempt fire safety, road and school improvements, does not force county taxpayers to pay for improvements, and does not claim to provide affordable housing," the request says.

But former San Diego County Supervisor Pam Slater-Price — one of five who signed the opposition ballot argument — called the legal challenge “a word-smithing game” and accused proponents of trying to intimidate her and the voters.

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San Diego County Report on Lilac Hills Initiative

San Diego County Report on Lilac Hills Initiative

Lilac Hills Ranch Initiative Impact Report

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“I don’t see how they could possibly claim that ours was not accurate, because I have relied upon the county’s report, which was an analysis of the impacts," Slater-Price said.

Slater-Price said it is not false and misleading to say the initiative exempts the development from county fire response times and road safety standards.

“Sorry, but you say you have a five-minute response time and the county says you have a seven-to nine-minute response time," she said. "You say that you have mitigated and reduced traffic, the county says that you will take the traffic levels from 1,320 to over 19,000 cars per day.”

The proposed ballot argument against the project states that “Measure B will exacerbate urban sprawl in violation of the County General Plan.” It also says “Measure B supporters claim it would provide affordable housing for low-income families and veterans. Not one word of Measure B mentions affordable housing.”

The petition for the writ of mandate filed Thursday asks the judge to require the Registrar of Voters Micheal Vu to delete and amend “false and/or misleading statements."

The petition was filed by James Sutton, an attorney who wrote to the FPPC on behalf of Accretive Investments to argue that County Supervisor Bill Horn did not need to recuse himself from voting on Lilac Hills because of a potential conflict of interest.
Accretive Investments is the developer of the Lilac Hills Ranch. Horn subsequently recused himself based on the county counsel's recommendation.

The Registrar of Voters has until this Friday to finalize all initiative ballot wording.

Editor's note: an earlier version of this story incorrectly said Sutton represented County Supervisor Bill Horn when he recused himself from voting on Lilac Hills due to a potential conflict of interest.

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