SAN MARCOS — The developer of the San Marcos Highlands, a proposed housing project, has reduced its residential footprint and increased the amount of open space at the site, but residents remain concerned over a number of issues still associated with it.
Jim Simmons, president of Consultants Collaborative, representing the landowner Farouk Kubba, presented a revised plan to the city’s Planning Commission last week, introducing a 189-home project on 293 acres with 83 percent of open space from their previous plan of 198-homes in the area north of Santa Fe Hills.
In 2011, the developer began a re-design of the project to “be more sensitive to the environment,” according to Simmons’ presentation.
With the reductions made to the project Simmons said the housing development was still “somewhat,” economically feasible for Kubba. “Fortunately, we’re in a market that’s beginning to rise,” he added.
After hearing the latest proposal, the planning commission is now reviewing the project and will be making their recommendation to the City Council Jan. 6. The council is scheduled to make a decision on whether the development can proceed or not at their Jan. 28 meeting.
A public commenting period, which began in October and was extended to Dec. 13, had received 29 letters, the majority in opposition to the development, from federal, state and local agencies, non-governmental groups and more than a dozen individuals.
Many of the issues revolved around biological resources, water quality, traffic, and others such as noise and fire safety. The planning division is in the process of responding to all of the comments.
Kubba purchased the property in 1981. It was initially zoned for industrial park use.
The site’s original EIR (Environmental Impact Report) was certified in 1990, and allowed for 275 homes on the property. In 2002, the city updated the EIR with a supplemental report that approved for 230 homes. In 2005, that number was reduced to 191 homes on site.
The revisions were attributed to new analyses and technical studies, according to the planning department’s presentation.
Jerry Backoff, a planning director with the city, said that it wasn’t likely a new EIR would be necessary because the conclusions of the updated studies didn’t have a lot of significant changes from the original to require a new report.
With a portion of the open space falling outside of the city line and into the county’s, the planning commissioners did have questions over ownership and fees.
“The open space doesn’t have any water fees or development fees,” Simmons said. “It can be owned by the homeowners association and controlled by a conservancy, or by the state of California, or by the county of San Diego, under conservancy agreement.
“One of those choices will happen. Whatever choice is taken will have to be approved by the federal government,” he said.
The open space will be owned by somebody, Simmons added. “Because there is no tax on it, (there) won’t be expense on it other than to have insurance; that’ll be part of the homeowners’ fee.”
Currently there is a property tax on it, which Kubba has been paying since he purchased the land.