County releases draft EIR for Newland project

SAN MARCOS — Developers of a controversial proposed 2,135-home subdivision of San Marcos are hailing the project as “San Diego County’s first carbon neutral community” as public review begins on the project’s draft environmental report.

The draft environmental impact report for Newland Sierra was released June 15. The review period ends Aug. 14. The County Board of Supervisors seven years ago rejected a predecessor project called Merriam Mountains, which would have created 2,530 homes on 2,300 acres in the same area, north of Deer Springs Road and west of Interstate 15.

The new project reduces the footprint to 1,985 acres.

According to the document, the project would cause significant and unavoidable impacts to the area’s aesthetics, air quality, mineral resources, noise, population and housing, and transportation and traffic. “Feasible mitigation would not reduce such impacts to less-than-significant levels,” the report states.

Newland Communities, the developer, issued a statement last week coinciding with the release of the draft environmental impact report, touting the developer’s commitment to environmental stewardship.

The statement highlights several features of the project that help make it the county’s first net-zero emissions community, including putting solar panels atop every home, a charging station for electrical vehicles in every garage, a community-sponsored shuttle with service throughout the community and the Escondido Transit Center and an electric bike-sharing program across the community.

The project also sets aside nearly 72 percent of the acreage for open space.

According to the environmental report’s summary page, the project is the first large-scale planned community in San Diego County to achieve a 100 percent reduction in the project’s construction and operational greenhouse gas emissions.

“Environmental stewardship is one of our company’s highest priorities,” said Rita Brandin, senior vice president and development director at Newland. “Now we’re taking this commitment to new heights by creating a community that will have a net-zero emissions footprint. We believe that Sierra will become the new green standard for sustainable communities in San Diego County.”

A substantial group of residents in the communities surrounding the project have fought to stop the project over the years, citing the strain it would put on area resources, including water supply, fire suppression services, traffic, noise and air quality.

Tom Kumura lives in the Twin Oaks Community Sponsor Group and serves on the group’s board. Speaking as a resident and not in his official capacity, Kumura said the developer’s highlighting of the project’s environmental bona fides doesn’t take away residents’ concerns about the project.

“The environmental spin? That’s the first time they’ve used that,” Kumura said. “But the same issues are there in terms of traffic, water, noise and fire danger. They really haven’t addressed those.”

To review the full draft environmental impact report, visit http://www.sandiegocounty.gov/content/sdc/pds/ceqa/SP-15-001/NSDEIR.html

 

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