CARLSBAD — Preserve Calavera and other community groups are encouraging the Carlsbad Planning Commission and City Council to choose the Quarry Creek project alternative to build 506 houses instead of the current proposal, which includes 656 houses.
Diane Nygaard, CEO and founder of Preserve Calavera, said concerned residents are not opposing the Quarry Creek project. They are simply asking for fewer houses to be built on the west panhandle of the site. This end of the site butts against the 134-acre Buena Vista Creek Ecological Reserve and neighbors the historic Marron Hayes Adobe.
“We’re reasonable people,” Nygaard said. “We realize the developer has the right to develop the land.”
The 156-acre project site is part of the reclaimed Hanson Aggregates quarry. It includes El Salto Falls and is bordered on the east by Oceanside’s Quarry Creek Shopping Center.
Corky McMillin Companies built the shopping center and is an active officer of Quarry Creek Investors LLC that will develop the housing project.
Nygaard said the alternative of 506 units is a compromise and notes that the area was originally zoned for 293 homes.
Project builders prefer to stick to the current proposal.
“There is one proposed project with 656 homes,” Todd Galarneau, senior vice president of Quarry Creek Investors LLC, said. “A number of alternatives are required by the California Environmental Quality Act. Some have more (houses), some have less.”
Galarneau added at least one alternative calls for 750 homes to be built.
The perk for the city to approve a plan with 656 houses or more is that the density would satisfy part of the city’s affordable housing requirement.
Galarneau said Quarry Creek Investors has been working with the city, regional agencies and a dozen community groups throughout the planning process to reach the best project proposal.
The city’s general plan states that at build-out 40 percent of city will remain parks and open space.
The current project proposal designates 60 percent of the site to parks and open space with 56 percent of the site to remain natural open space.
“We meet all city criteria or exceed them,” Galarneau said. “This is a critical habitat and historical site. We really struck that balance in the current land use plan.”
Nygaard said the proposed 87.9 acres of open space fails to preserve a visual buffer between planned homes and the adobe.
Poles that mark planned building are distinctly visible on the hill across from the adobe and adjacent reserve.
“It’s a regional wildlife corridor and has a historic sense of place,” Nygaard said. “There’s 9,000 years of Native American history, a land grant adobe and natural resources. It’s a unique treasure of Carlsbad.”
Citizen groups have been involved in preserving the area since the Quarry Creek Shopping Center was built as the first phase of the project.
“This is the third round of community involvement,” Nygaard said. “I don’t know anybody that doesn’t agree there’s been too much development.”
Previous efforts were made to preserve and maintain El Salto Falls.
In one case a buffer zone between the falls and shopping center was approved by Oceanside City Council, but papers were hastily signed off that did not include a sufficient buffer zone and the agreement was not recognized.
“There is a history of concern,” Nygaard said.
In other efforts money was successfully raised to purchase adjacent land and preserve it as part of the Buena Vista Creek Ecological Reserve.
The latest efforts are focused on creating a visual buffer between the adobe and planned development by not building on the 56-acre panhandle area next to the adobe.
A period of public review of the project’s draft Environmental Impact Report extends from now through early December and allows residents to give their feedback.
“In three months a critical decision will be made,” Nygaard said. “Three of the eight alternatives are taking development off of the panhandle.”
So far the Carlsbad Planning Commission has not given direction and City Council has not made a recommendation on development plans.
Community input on the housing project is being collected through Dec. 7. All comments will be reviewed, responded to and presented as part of a summary to the Carlsbad Planning Commission and City Council in late January or early February.
“Each comment is listed,” Chris DeCerbo, principal planner said. “Often times actual revisions are made.”
The project will proceed with public hearings in early 2013. Construction of homes is expected to begin in 2015.
The Quarry Creek master plan can be viewed on the city of Carlsbad website. Comments can be emailed to senior planner Van Lynch at firstname.lastname@example.org.