San Marcos calls for closed door special session

SAN MARCOS — The San Marcos City Council is hosting a special closed door session Thursday, which comes one week before the deadline for groups to file legal challenges against a controversial housing project the council approved last month.

The agenda item doesn’t list any specific cases being discussed and it only alludes to “two potential actions.”

City spokeswoman Sarah MacDonald said the session “revolves around potential litigation,” but declined further comment.

City officials can’t disclose the nature of the discussions that go on behind closed doors unless action is taken and reported back in open session.

But the timing of the meeting (litigants have a 30-day window to file lawsuits against approved projects) suggests that the meeting could be related to the city council’s approval of San Marcos Highlands, a 189-home project that has been the subject of fierce opposition from some groups within the community.

The City Council voted 4-1 on Nov. 15 after a four-hour public hearing in which most of the speakers railed against the project, citing environmental, traffic, open space preservation, wildlife protection and school overcrowding as flaws of the current project.

Councilman Chris Orlando cast the lone dissenting vote.

A search of the Superior Court’s register of actions shows no cases filed against San Marcos related to the project, but at the Nov. 15 meeting, an attorney from at least one organization appeared and submitted a letter of opposition and a representative from another group attached themselves to their complaint letter.

These letters are typically precursors to legal action.

Kevin Johnson, the attorney for the Endangered Habitats League said Wednesday that the group had not yet decided on litigation but would decide within a week.

The Highlands project has been in the works for more than 30 years since Farouk Kubba purchased the property in 1981.

Kubba originally proposed a 275-home development in 1990, but over time he has reduced the number of homes with each iteration of the project before finally settling on the 189-home version that received the Planning Commission approval in September.

It was revived in late 2014 after developers temporarily shelved the plans, and has been very controversial in the communities immediately surrounding the project, which is proposed on 262 acres northwest of Palomar College.

Consultants representing Kubba said that each variation of the project has improved it’s impact on the surrounding habitat, and that the current project calls to preserve 240 acres of open space.

But opponents said the improvements don’t go far enough.

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