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County housing battle to play out in 2019

REGION — The battle over large housing projects in the back country and rural enclaves of North County will play itself out in the next couple years, by way of a lawsuit and a referendum.

The lawsuit, filed last year by the Elfin Forest and Harmony Grove Town Council, takes aim at the Harmony Grove Village South project the San Diego County Board of Supervisors approved in July as part of a three-development general plan amendment. 

Critics of the project argue that it places new units in a fire-prone area with limited evacuation routes, increases density in a largely rural setting and introduces apartments into a landscape dominated by rural estates and single-family homes. 

 “This Project—which would place hundreds of new residences in a wildfire-prone, rural area of the County, lacking urban services and infrastructure —is exactly the kind of suburban sprawl the County sought to curb in its 2011 comprehensive General Plan update,” the lawsuit states. “Nonetheless, the County bent over backwards to approve the development, amending the General Plan, rezoning the property, and adopting a statement of overriding considerations to justify the significant environmental impacts of the Project, among other actions.”

The parties are scheduled to meet for a status conference Jan. 11.

Meanwhile, opponents of the county’s second large approval last year — the Newland Sierra project north of San Marcos — successfully gathered enough signatures to force the county to put the issue to voters.

Petitioners collected nearly twice the number of signatures needed to force a referendum to rescind the Board of Supervisor’s Sept. 25 approval of the 2,135-unit development near Merriam Mountain. 

The Board of Supervisors, rather than rescinding the approval outright, voted 4-0 in December to place the item on the March 2020 ballot. 

Supporters said the Harmony Grove Village South and Newland Sierra projects will help ease the county’s lingering housing as well as provide infrastructure to both areas. 

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