As deadline looms, group continues to weigh lawsuit

SAN MARCOS — An environmental group said it was still considering filing a lawsuit to challenge the San Marcos approval of a residential development in the foothills on the eve of the deadline to do so.

Dan Silver, the CEO of the Endangered Habitats League, said that the organization would “likely file,” a lawsuit challenging the 189-home San Marcos Highlands project, but was still weighing its options as of last week. The deadline for groups to challenge the city’s approval is Jan. 13, 30 days after the city approved the second reading and officially approved the project.

The City Council originally 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 show 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.

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 its 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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