Higher-density housing plans spark debate

Higher-density housing plans spark debate
The proposed residential development, Valiano, lies at the crossroads of Mount Whitney Road and Country Club Drive. The property encompasses 209 acres of unincorporated land between the cities of San Marcos and Escondido. Photo by Paige Nelson

Early development plans to build 362 new homes in Eden Valley have some residents concerned. 

“This has reinforced what we’ve always believed — development equals more development,” said JP Theberge, Board Member of the Elfin Forest and Harmony Grove Town Council.

Theberge has been a resident for two years and said people are worried about losing their way of life and community character to big developers.

“Our motto is to keep it rural,” Theberge said. “This is one of the last few pockets of rural areas in San Diego and we want to keep it that way.”

The proposed project, known as Valiano, is a gated residential development that would occupy 209 acres of unincorporated land between the cities of San Marcos and Escondido.

Construction of Harmony Grove Village, a 742-home-development adjacent to the property is already underway and would bring the total number of houses in the area to more than 1,000.

New Urban West, the original developer of Harmony Grove Village, opened communication lines and collaborated with residents to ensure the layout blended with the rural community.

After dozens of public meetings, the revised plan was approved by the County Board of Supervisors in 2007.

“The community has worked diligently for the past 10 years, on taxpayer money, to plan for overall density,” said Jacqueline Arsivaud, Vice Chair of Elfin Forest and Harmony Grove Town Council.

The community’s collaborative efforts with county planners led the county to adopt a General Plan in August 2011, which zoned the property for minimum lot sizes of one and two acres.

A community plan for Harmony Grove was approved at the same time to draw a “village boundary” and prevent further urbanization of the area.

The new development encompasses about 50 acres of Harmony Grove and would require a general plan amendment to rezone the property from agricultural to semi-rural with half-acre lots.

Developer Integral Communities also plans to include public multi-use trails, smaller private trails, an equestrian staging area and parkland.

“It’s not to say we don’t want any development,” Arsivaud said, “but the rules should apply to everyone.”

Janine Huston, a 12-year resident of Eden Valley, believes amending the general plan this way will jeopardize its overall intention and allows for irresponsible development.

“We realize property owners should have the right to build on their own land,” Huston said, “but this feels like a slap in the face.”

In lieu of a formal town council, Huston formed a group to host community meetings called Friends of Eden Valley for Responsible Development.

Huston said more than 50 people have attended the meetings so far — a considerably high turnout for a neighborhood of about 80 homes.

“It’s really a trial case for the County Board of Supervisors,” Huston said. “What is their commitment to honoring the community plan?”

The first public EIR scoping meeting will be held at the Elfin Forest Fire Station July 10 at 7 p.m. A Notice of Preparation Document, containing a description of probable environmental effects, is available online and is open for commentary until July 19.

The County Board of Supervisors will not vote for project approval until 2015.



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