The Coast News Group

Board OKs extension for plans to develop 39-acre lot

RANCHO SANTA FE — A development firm seeking a two-year extension for a planned subdivision on Del Dios Highway got exactly what it asked for — but just barely.
With a 4-3 vote at the Feb. 18 meeting, the Rancho Santa Fe Association board of directors granted a second and final extension to Quantum Estates II Inc., giving the company until May 6, 2012, to finalize its subdivision map for the 39.4-acre lot at the eastern boundary of the Covenant.
In May 2004, despite a recommendation from the Art Jury to deny the application, the board approved the proposed subdivision with a 5-2 vote, giving the developer four years to submit its final plans. But the county didn’t approve the tentative map until 2008, according to Ivan Holler, the Covenant administrator.
Quantum requested and was granted a one-time-only two-year extension that was allowed under the association regulatory code.
On Feb. 2, 2010 — with a declining economy, no final plans and a looming deadline — the developer sent a letter to the association seeking another extension, citing a recent California law that automatically grants such extensions to all pending subdivision maps that would expire before Jan. 1, 2012.
“Do we have any choice?” director Jack Queen asked. Recalling that the proposal was “extremely controversial to begin with,” he wanted to delay a decision for one month and give staff time to review the plans.
Based on the Art Jury’s original recommendation to deny, he said this would give the board an opportunity to perhaps correct any flaws that were overlooked in 2004.
Tim Sullivan and Deb Plummer agreed.
Holler said the board could deny the request, but situations under which that would generally occur — a major change in the project, the discovery of an endangered species on the property, etc. — aren’t present in this case.
Director Dick Doughty said he couldn’t support a motion to delay approval. “This is kind of a settled matter,” he said. “They’ve gone through the ringer on this thing and invested a considerable amount of money. It’s only fair to grant the extension.”
Queen argued that delaying a decision for one month wasn’t likely to create a hardship, and it was still ahead of the May deadline when the application would expire.
“The board needs to look at the facts and understand what it is voting on,” he said. But Doughty disagreed, saying it would be “grossly unfair” to even reopen the issue.
President Bill Beckman, who cast the tie-breaking vote, agreed with Doughty. “I don’t see any point in rehashing it,” he said. “Let’s let them move ahead.”
George McGill, president of Quantum Estates, said he appreciated the board’s decision. He also said that while the original approval process may have caused “a little bit of a dust up,” he would hardly describe it as “extremely controversial.”
“We wanted more lots. They wanted low density, and properly so,” McGill said. “But it didn’t pencil out.” He said Quantum, a development group controlled by New Zealanders, was proposing 13 lots. The association wanted to limit it to five. They settled on seven.
Also causing another minor glitch at the time was an interest in using the property to build a new school, but that never received approval, McGill said.
McGill said it’s taken six years to get the maps approved because the developer “keeps running into obstacles.”
“But to be fair to the association, it’s been administrative delays, mostly at the county,” he said. “It’s been a long labor of love.”
Quantum’s application will automatically expire if a final subdivision map is not submitted by May 6, 2012.