Proposed North County Housing Development Public Comment Meeting Draws A Crowd
More than 200 people showed up for a meeting Tuesday night to discuss plans to build more than 2,000 new homes in rural North County.
It was the only public meeting scheduled by San Diego County staff to take public comment on the 8,000-page Environmental Impact Report for Newland Sierra.
About 65 people signed up to speak, most of them in opposition.
The site of Newland Sierra, the proposed master-planned community, is about five miles south of another project that failed to win public support on last year’s November ballot: Lilac Hills. But the developer of this project, Newland Communities, hopes to win approval from the San Diego County Board of Supervisors, rather than taking the matter to a voters’ initiative.
The land is even more rural than Lilac Hills, with walking trails and bike paths winding through chaparral, instead of lemon and avocado groves.
Abigail Henry was one of those opposed to the Newland Sierra plan, citing increased traffic and fire risks.
“The main reason is because of the General Plan that they spent 10 years creating and $18 million of our tax money, saying that that was not a good place for urban development and we completely agree with that," Henry said. "There’s not much infrastructure around Merriam Mountain.”
Seven years ago County Supervisors narrowly rejected a proposed master-planned community called Merriam Mountain with 2,635 homes on the same site. The county’s General Plan, passed six years ago, called for just 99 homes on the site.
The Newland Sierra plan has 500 fewer homes in different configurations. The developer is proposing to widen Deer Springs Road to four lanes, and provide homeowner-funded shuttles to the Coaster light rail line in San Marcos.
However, the main thing that has changed is the shortage of new housing in San Diego County.
Clif Williams with Latham Watkins represents the Golden Door Spa, which opposed Merriam Mountain and now opposes the Newland Sierra project. Williams said it is too soon to change the county’s General Plan. He said the plan contains zoning for 72,000 units that have not yet been built.
“We need to let the General Plan work," he said.
Williams said he was surprised Newland Communities does not plan to present the project to the local planning groups that represent the neighboring communities of Twin Oaks, Bonsall and Hidden Valley.
“For a project of this magnitude, it’s very odd that the applicant is not engaging more with the community,” he said.
Alex Bell of the county’s Planning Department, said local planning group recommendations will be taken into account when county staff make their recommendation on the project, probably early next year, to the Planning Commission. The final decision will rest with the County Board of Supervisors.
Public comment on the Environmental Impact Report for Newland Sierra closes Aug. 14.