CARLSBAD — The long-running battle over a piece of property in Ponto is not expected to have a resolution any time soon.
Residents in the San Pacifico neighborhood have been calling for a coastal park and open space as required by numerous city policies and guidelines.
Recently, Shopoff Realty Investments withdrew from its agreement with Hudson Advisors LLC, the landowner, to develop 136 condos up to 40 feet on the 11-acre lot east of Ponto Drive and north of Avenida Encinas.
In addition, plans also called for commercial development on the smaller 6-acre lot across Ponto Drive.
But Debbie Fountain, director of housing and neighborhood services, said there is little the city can do, as it cannot violate the ownership rights of the landowner.
“They have not formally withdrawn their application,” she said of Hudson Advisors. “We are kind of in a holding pattern right now. We believe they have the right to develop the way the General Plan has designated the property, which is residential and mixed use.”
Fountain stressed the city is not advocating one way or the other, just that it cannot violate the rights of the landowner.
Should Hudson Advisors pursue its application, the next step would be to conduct an environmental impact report, which could take between 12 and 18 months, Fountain said.
One of the core issues is residents believe there is an open space and park deficiency in the southwest quadrant of the city.
Lance Schulte and Mike Sebahar, two residents and members of the group People for Ponto, said in a previous interview, the residents are not satisfied with how the deficiencies are being moved to Veterans Park, several miles away off Faraday Avenue and Cannon Road.
The city recently announced plans to develop Veterans Park with a $23 million investment gathered from development fees.
“A quarter of that $20 million came from this area that is not being provided a park,” Schulte said. “It is being given away to a park six miles away that we can’t use. We’re just asking to have an open, public dialogue to try and work through these issues.”
Fountain said the city doesn’t agree with the residents’ position on the location of the park space, noting the City Council, years ago, voted to exempt the area from the requirements.
Additionally, the San Pacifico development paid park-in-lieu fees to construct the project.
“There were council actions that were taken and it’s long past any appeal period,” she said. “We don’t believe any error was made because the council made those decisions, granted it was a long time ago. The council could come up a different policy, but that hasn’t come up at this point.”
If a park were ever to be built, the council must change the land use through a General Plan amendment. However, Fountain said such a decision could lead to legal issues of the land-use rights as subverting private rights, which could lead to a reduction in financial value, may lead to a lawsuit, Fountain said.
The value of the land also appears to vary, depending on who is commenting. Fountain said it could be worth as much as $40 million, while residents believe it to be around $14 million.
Schulte said the city could buy the land, or perhaps the residents, in addition to trying to work out a land swap with Veterans Park. He said, however, the land owner most likely would sell the land with its current land-use designation and any entitlements connected to the property.
“We understand the residents don’t agree … and think they are due a park,” she added. “That’s not how that land-use plan is set up right now.”
Steve Puterski covers Carlsbad and Vista. For tips or story ideas, contact him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @StevePuterski.