Water tanks take center stage at town hall

Water tanks take center stage at town hall
Escondido Mayor Sam Abed listens to a question Wednesday at City Hall from a resident concerning the proposal of a new recycled water facility in the Chaparral development. Photo by Steve Puterski

ESCONDIDO — A heated and spirited discussion was the centerpiece of Mayor Sam Abed’s 11th town hall meeting Wednesday at City Hall.

Residents of the Chaparral development near Dixon Lake pressed the second-term mayor about plans to construct a recycled water facility in the neighborhood.

A conditional use permit is being requested to develop two buildings for an advance treatment of recycled water from the city’s Hale Avenue Recovery Facility station.

Abed, though, pushed back against calls that the council had already decided to move forward despite the Planning Commission voting in opposition.

“We are going to look at it because of your concerns,” he said. “To tell us our minds are made up is not really correct.”

For nearly 40 minutes, the residents questioned Abed about other concerns with the project, including possible toxins, view blockage and property values, among others.

“It feels extraordinarily arbitrary and unfair since the Planning Commission already denied this,” one woman said. “It feels like you want it to go through.”

The two buildings would stand 37 feet tall, while the site would be designed to accommodate future equipment to provide an additional one million gallons of capacity.

The site is located between East Washington and Citrus avenues and El Norte Parkway.

Three underground storage tanks would also be installed and they include a 90,000-gallon feeder, 163,000-gallon inter-processer and storage for 970,000 gallons on the 3.25-acre site. In addition, a 1,500-kilowatt backup generator will be installed. A six-foot wall and decorative fencing will also be erected around the tanks.

The new plant would use membrane filtration and reverse osmosis to produce up to two million gallons of water per day.

The recycled water is used for landscaping and agricultural and created to provided a more dependable and sustainable supply. In addition, recycled water allows the city to be less dependent on imported water.

However, resident Diane Belnap rallied her neighbors to fight the location of the tanks. She said in an interview prior to the meeting the area does not qualify for a conditional use permit and if constructed, will sink home values, add pollution and block views.

Belnap has circulated 200 fliers throughout the neighborhood and recruited dozens of neighborhood residents to push back against the proposal.

“It absolutely doesn’t fit and doesn’t qualify for a conditional use permit,” she said. “It will degradate the neighborhood, our quality of life and our financial investment. ”There will be noise pollution, chemical pollution and visual pollution. It will sit high above most of the homes in the area.”

Belnap, who has resided in the neighborhood for five years, said she would not have bought her home if a project like this were possible.

“It is zoned residential for a reason,” she said. “The planning commission has been very under the radar about this. They only sent notices to homes within 300 to 500 feet of the property.”

Belnap said she and several neighbors are preparing a presentation for next week’s city council meeting to air their concerns.

“There’s a number of issues where they are violating municipal codes, they are violating the General Plan for the city and they are violating our rights as citizens,” she added. “They are imposing upon us permanent and irrevocable detriment that we have no power to overcome.”

During the meeting, Abed attempted to stop the conversation several times since the proposal will come before the council next week in an open meeting. With three other councilmembers in attendance, Abed said he did not want to allow the perception of any of them, including himself, of being swayed during an unofficial forum.

However, he did add it would be a good idea for the residents and city staff to meet to discuss the issue and location. In addition, he welcomed the group to conduct a presentation of about 10 minutes next week.

“We have listened to your concerns,” Abed said. “We didn’t know the impact was that severe, but that’s why we are here.”

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