OCEANSIDE — The City Council gave a green light to Integral Communities to pursue a 680 to 985 housing development in South Morro Hills farmland on Wednesday. Farmers and residents also received encouragement to continue to develop a Vision Plan for the area.
While the two interests are currently at odds over best land use, the City Council advised them to work together.
“It is not an either or, let’s keep working at this, and continue with the Vision Plan,” Councilman Jerry Kern said.
The proposed housing project includes required infrastructure development, commercial space, a boutique hotel, open space and walking trails. Seventeen acres of the 117-acre site would be set aside for hub-agritourism.
City staff described the project as “essentially an urbanized project site.”
The Planning Commission and city staff did not support the project. It does not meet city development criteria of having adequate infrastructure, being in an area that fulfills housing needs, or improving the city’s jobs to housing ratio.
Kern and Councilman Jack Feller voiced support for the developer to work with the community and pursue building houses on prime farmland.
Kern said the developer could serve as a partner in building infrastructure improvements, and developing agritourism. He added a farmer’s asset is their land, and they have a right to develop it.
Others said the developer’s requests for land use and zoning changes do not suit the community.
Farmers and residents said the sizable development would irreversibly change prime farmland, and tax city infrastructure and services beyond required development improvements.
Residents said another fire station and wastewater treatment facility would be needed in the agricultural area that is now serviced by septic tanks. There were estimates the project would cost the city $200,000 a year in additional infrastructure and services.
“The whole city will be paying for roads, a sewage plant and fire,” Oceanside resident Lisa Hamilton said.
There were also concerns about traffic gridlock, promised road improvements falling short of expanding connecting roads, and negative environmental impacts.
“It’s not smart growth, it’s sprawl,” Diane Nygaard, Preserve Calavera founder and president, said.
Joining in opposition to the development were the Democratic Club of Carlsbad-Oceanside, Oceanside Chamber of Commerce, Preserve Calavera and the South Morro Hills Association.
Councilwoman Esther Sanchez spoke in support of the ongoing agritourism study, which needs additional city funds to proceed with the development of a Vision Plan. She asked that the housing wait until a plan is completed.
“We as a city need to partner and help ensure viability of our farms,” Sanchez said. “Urbanization of South Morro Hills is not in the best interest of the city.”
City monies have been set aside for a South Morro Hills Vision Plan, but not approved. The Planning Commission recommended council take steps to dedicate funds, but there was no motion by the council to do so on Wednesday.
Deputy Mayor Chuck Lowery invited farmers and residents to come back to the City Council with a funds request.
Agritourism efforts, hosted by Visit Oceanside Conference and Visitors Bureau and supported by the South Morro Hills Association, have held two community workshops to discuss commercial farming challenges, agritourism opportunities, and present zoning.
Stakeholders who attended the workshops concluded a Vision Plan is the next step needed, prior to area development.
Following Wednesday’s council workshop Lance Waite, Integral Communities principal, said the developer wants to work with residents and incorporate community agritourism ideas into the development.
Waite said it would take about two years to get through the city development process, and break ground on the project.
Two years is also the timeline for an area Vision Plan to be developed, once efforts are funded.