San Marcos Highlands EIR says project impacts ‘less than significant’

SAN MARCOS — A draft environmental impact report for a 189-home development in the northern foothills of San Marcos says the project would have less than a significant impact upon local traffic, wildlife, view corridors, noise and other environmental factors.

The San Marcos Highlands Project, which was revived in late 2014 after developers temporarily shelved the plans, has been somewhat controversial in the communities immediately surrounding the project, which is proposed on 262 acres northwest of Palomar College.

But the EIR, which was circulated for public comment between June and August, says that the project’s impacts are either “less than significant” or would be less than significant with some sort of mitigating actions.

City officials said that they received more than 70 responses during the comment phase, some from public agencies and others from residents and opponents of the project.

Those comments have yet to be reviewed and are not part of the public record, officials said.

City officials and the project developer will respond to the comments and make changes to the report as necessary before it heads to the Planning Commission and the City Council for certification, which could occur as early as early 2016, city officials said.

Residents in the past have complained that it is not necessarily the project — but the project’s future ramifications — that worry them, specifically as it pertains to a proposed extension of Las Posas Road.

A number of residents in the adjacent Santa Fe Hills community or in unincorporated county land north of the project along Buena Creek Road have been opposed to or skeptical of the project largely due to a feature of the project that would extend Las Posas Road in San Marcos nearly to Buena Creek.

While the project does not call for the road connection to be completed, neighbors see the development as simply a step toward the inevitable completion of that link, which will exacerbate traffic along Buena Creek and Twin Oaks Valley Road.

Twin Oaks Valley Road, which turns into Deer Springs Road, already becomes bogged down with traffic during rush hour as commuters use it to avoid traffic along the eastbound state Route 78 on their way to Interstate 15.

The environmental report does not address the speculation, city officials said.

Among the other chief complaints has been that the project would add too many children to local schools as well as mar the ridgeline and local views.

The environmental report concludes that each of these concerns would be addressed with proper mitigation. In the case of additional students, the developer would be charged a fee for every square foot to both the San Marcos Unified and Vista Unified school districts.

Traffic concerns would also be mitigated through the creation of a dedicated turn lanes on both the eastbound and westbound Highway 78, which the project owner agreed to last year.

The Highlands project was originally approved in 1990 by the property owner, Farouk Kubba, but has gone through a series of revisions and delays ever since. Previous iterations of the project in 1990, 1999, and 2002 were delayed by the economy, neighborhood resistance and delays by the developer.

Originally the project called for 275 homes, but Kubba has decreased the number of units to 230 in 2002 and 189 in its most         current form.

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