Residents, developer reach agreement on Marja Acres

Residents, developer reach agreement on Marja Acres
A pathway on Park Drive, shown circled, for the proposed Marja Acres development off El Camino Real and Kelly Drive will be eliminated from plans after residents and the developer, New Urban West, agreed it should be removed. Courtesy image

CARLSBAD — Talks and open discussions bore fruit for the neighbors adjacent to and near the proposed Marja Acres development off El Camino Real across from Robertson Ranch.

Residents were, however, very concerned about a proposed 70-foot-wide pathway from the development into the neighborhood on Park Drive. A home would have been demolished to make way for the path.

New plans will be submitted to the city for the project calling for 32 single-family homes, 151 townhomes, 35 senior apartments and up to 16,000 square feet of retail on 20 acres on El Camino Real south of Kelly Drive without the path.

Greg Corso, who lives on Park Drive across from the proposed pathway, said he is happy with the result after talks with developer New Urban West, Inc. There will be several meetings with residents over the coming weeks to discuss the revisions and any other major concerns with the project.

“We’re totally pleased with their willingness to remove that from their project,” Corso said. “In this case, it seemed like they listened and made an appropriate decision. It’s a large development … we’ll still have the impacts of a large development. This was sort of an anomaly that galvanized our neighborhood.”

Tracy Seemann, who lives off Park Drive on Via Arequipa, said residents wanted a win-win, both for them and New Urban West, Inc. Concerns centered on increased traffic and overflow parking into the neighborhood as a result of the pathway.

Corso said it also concerned him the pathway was so wide, and felt it could one day be turned into a roadway leading to his front door.

“We didn’t want to fight with the developer,” Seemann said. “We really felt we would be negatively impacted with parked cars and increased traffic in front of our homes. We found some amazing alternatives.”

One of those is the Kelly Drive Park Drive Road Improvement, which would allow a path through Marja Acres to the master trail plans and tie into the Kelly Drive improvements, Seemann said. Another option was a segment extension from Kelly Trail to Hidden Ridge that would connect more than two neighborhoods.

Corso and Seemann said over the past several months at least 100 letters of concern have been submitted to the city over the project and Seemann said a number of posted signs might have had a “huge” impact. Regardless, with the agreement last weekend, Corso said much of those issues have been erased.

“There will be no additional pedestrian or vehicular access of any kind between the new community at Marja Acres and the existing neighborhood,” Jonathan Frankel, New Urban West project manager, said. “We are grateful to the local residents who shared their thoughts with us and we are looking forward to continued community engagement as the project moves forward.”

Marja Acres was inherited by Mike and Marja Selna several years ago after the death of Maryon Hoffman, Marja’s mother. According to residents and numerous business owners on the property, neither the Selnas nor any other family member wanted to keep up with the maintenance and day-to-day operations. So, the Selnas found a willing buyer in New Urban West.

The sale of the land is conditional on approval from the City Council, which might not happen for another six to nine months. New Urban West must also receive approval from the California Coastal Commission.

Still, Corso said he and his neighbors went about addressing their concerns the right way. Noting New Urban West is engaged in a controversial project with the Escondido Country Club, he said it was important to engage the developer early and often to resolve any major issues.

“We are ecstatic with the news, but we’re also very guarded because we realize we are dealing with a developer and (are) aware of the other project they’re involved in,” Corso said. “Personally, I am very happy and I think this is a good thing for my neighborhood.”

Frankel said New Urban West is working to refine the plan, taking input and respecting the history, charm and character of the land. He also said reducing the impacts to the surrounding neighborhoods is another goal. 

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