County verifies signatures for referendum to 85/15 plan

County verifies signatures for referendum to 85/15 plan
Supporters of a referendum to the Strawberry fields 85/15 plan in Carlsbad submit signatures to City Hall on Sept. 24. The County of San Diego Registrar of Voters verified enough signatures required for it to move forward on Tuesday. Photo by Bryan Snyder

CARLSBAD — The battle for Agua Hedionda Lagoon and the surrounding space came to an expected result on Tuesday.

The County of San Diego Registrar of Voters verified 8,052 signatures to a referendum to overturn the Carlsbad City Council’s decision to approve The Agua Hedionda South Shore Specific Plan (85/15). Opponents of the proposition spearheaded by the nonprofit group Citizens For North County needed 6,523 valid signatures to move the referendum to the next stage in the ongoing dispute.

“We are delighted and so proud of our volunteers,” CNC President DeAnn Weimer said. “Thank you Carlsbad voters for protecting everyone’s right to vote. Now we can really debate the details of this proposal and make an informed decision as a community.”

The next phase requires the item to return to the Carlsbad City Council’s agenda at its next meeting Nov. 3.

According to Kristina Ray, the city’s communications manager, the council will vote to accept the Registrar’s Notice of Sufficiency. At the Nov. 3 meeting or at a later meeting, the council can rescind the ordinance or place it on the ballot in either the general election or a special election.

If the council opts for a special election, Ray said the city must wait 88 days before voters hit the polls and comes with a cost. The general election, meanwhile, is more than one year away Nov. 8, 2016, and the county has not estimated the cost of the general election including the initiative.

“They (the county) had originally said between $450,000 and $550,000,” Ray added. “The city would be typically responsible for that.”

The Agua Hedionda South Shore Specific Plan initiative was proposed on May 12 when Carlsbad residents Bill Dominguez, Carlton Lund and Maureen Simons submitted to the city a notice of intent to circulate a petition for a citizen-led initiative. Caruso Affiliated is the primary sponsor of the plan described in the initiative.

The required number of Carlsbad voters signed the initiative and the city council approved it on Aug. 25.

On Sept. 24, the referendum supporters submitted 9,095 signatures petitions to the city. After conducting a raw count, the city delivered the petitions to the County of San Diego Registrar of Voters on Sept. 25.

The Registrar of Voters eliminated duplicate signatures, signatures that did not match the registrar’s list of people registered to vote in the city and signatures from people who requested to withdraw their support. The Registrar of Voters is not required to verify all signatures submitted, only enough to meet the required number.

Conversely, to qualify initiative proponents obtained 9,784 signatures from registered Carlsbad voters, 15 percent of the total number of registered voters. On July 8, initiative proponents submitted to the city petitions with 20,479 signatures and the county checked 12,331 signatures before confirming the required number had been obtained.

The Agua Hedionda South Shore Specific Plan proposes a comprehensive plan for future land uses on a 203.4-acre property east of Interstate 5 between the south shore of the Agua Hedionda Lagoon and Cannon Road.

The 48 acres of land just east of Interstate 5 on Cannon Road has an existing General Plan land use designation of visitor commercial, meaning retail shops, restaurants, hotels and other similar visitor-serving commercial uses are allowed, according to the city. The approximately 155 acres east of that parcel is designated as permanent open space.

The proposed initiative would allow visitor-serving retail development on about half of the 48-acre parcel where it is allowed and add the other half to the existing open space land. It would also make the open space land available for public use.

This story has been updated since its original posting.

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