OCEANSIDE — City Council approved a $148,655 sewage evaluation for the agriculture area of Morro Hills Jan 3.
The OK was bundled with approval of updating the city Water, Sewer and Recycled Water Master Plan and applying for a recycled water planning grant.
Council voiced unanimous support for the master plan update and application for a planning grant.
The addition of sewer evaluation in rural Morro Hills divided the council in a 3-2 vote in which Mayor Jim Wood and Councilwoman Esther Sanchez voted no.
Some landowners said the study would let them know their future options. The study will provide a cursory review of whether the current septic systems could support development.
Flower farm owner Mike Mellano spoke in favor of study.
“We will continue farming as long as we can,” he said. “When we quit we are going to develop our property. Our question is ‘what can we do?’ I believe it’s a reasonable question.”
Others saw the study as opening the gateway to development in the rural area.
Wood said approval of the sewer evaluation and the ongoing push for the Melrose Drive extension are efforts to establish infrastructure in order to build houses.
“There’s a small number in Morro Hills who want the study,” Wood said. “It’s putting the horse behind the cart.”
“I feel like I’m being asked wink, wink, I need your help to pay for this,” Sanchez said. “The goal is to build 1,000 homes. It’s is not a smart growth plan. A couple of farmers want to maximize their profits. They shouldn’t ask the city to pay for that.”
Several Morro Hills farmers were among the speakers who opposed funding the study.
Some said that since there are no building plans in place the sewer study should wait.
Others said the area should be maintained for agriculture.
“It’s an extremely important agriculture area,” Suzann Demmon, Oceanside resident, said. “We do not need more homes.”
Other farm owners called on Mellano and Neil Nagata, who spoke in favor of the study, to pay for their own study.
“It’s not correct to think Morro Hills residents will be provided any benefit,” Dennis Miller, Oceanside resident, said. “The only ones to benefit are the few property owners who pushed for this. They should pay for this.”
When the city sewage evaluation is completed, property owners who wish to develop their land will still need to perform tests to confirm the study.