Supervisors rescind North County's Harmony Grove housing project permits
County supervisors voted Wednesday unanimously to rescind the permits for a contested housing project near Escondido and the Elfin Forest Recreation Reserve.
A previous board in July 2018 approved the Harmony Grove Village South proposal, which involved rezoning land near the intersection of Harmony Grove Road and Country Club Drive.
Along with the General Plan amendment that originally cleared the way for the project, supervisors also voted Wednesday to rescind the rezoning designation, specific plan, major use permit, environmental impact report and site plan.
The project was planned on 111 acres between Escondido and San Marcos. It would have included 453 single-family and multi-family homes, 5,000 square feet of commercial or civic uses, 4 acres of private and public parks, multi-use trails and 35 acres of biological open space, according to the county.
In August 2018, the Sierra Club, Elfin Forest Harmony Grove Town Council, Endangered Habitats League and the Cleveland National Forest Foundation filed a lawsuit challenging the project, claiming it violated the California Environmental Quality Act.
In February 2020, a trial court sided with the plaintiffs. According to the county, the court ruled that the project also had numerous drawbacks, including inadequate greenhouse mitigation measures and air quality analysis.
The project was inconsistent with the San Diego Association of Governments' Regional Plan, the county's General Plan on affordable housing and a community plan policy requiring septic tanks, according to the court ruling.
On Oct. 14, 2021, an appeals court affirmed the trial court's ruling. In October, the trial court issued a revised order requiring the county to rescind all Harmony Grove project approvals within 60 days.
During a public comment period Wednesday, J.P. Theberge of the Elfin Forest Harmony Grove Town Council said the previous Board of Supervisors didn't take community concerns about wildfire risks seriously.
"The era of sprawl developing in fire-prone areas is over," Theberge said, adding that he and other area residents have started a nonprofit that focuses on contested development projects.
Kelvin Barrios of the Laborers Union Local 89 urged supervisors to let the project go forward.
"We have an agreement; they're working with local labor," he said. "We want to see this project done."
Supervisor Jim Desmond was absent Wednesday, and his office didn't provide a formal reason. Wednesday's regular meeting, which focuses on land use and environmental issues, was the last for 2022.