DEL MAR — With the review period now closed for a draft environmental impact report for downtown revitalization, council members opted at the May 7 meeting to publicly address concerns expressed in the 67 comments received rather than delay placing the village specific plan on the November ballot, as was requested by a few residents, including a former councilman.
“It’s important that there be something eventually going to the voters that will allow for more development in the downtown area,” former Mayor Dave Druker said. “But there are lots of rumblings among the residents that point to strong opposition to this plan as written currently.
“Given the complexity of the specific plan and the level of discomfort with the community … it is proposed that more time be taken to review, revise and improve the specific plan so it can be approved and placed on a calmer later ballot, perhaps in the March to June 2013 timeframe,” Druker said. “It is believed that pushing the matter to voters in November 2012 is too ambitious and will likely lead to defeat of the plan.
“People are currently beginning to organize against this,” he said. “At this point you need to send a strong message to them that this is not going to be ramrodded down their throats.”
“We watch you guys work so hard on these kinds of proposals,” resident Sherryl Parks said. “You’ve done your homework. Many of you are doing a lot now in the community to teach us.
But I’m picking up a lot of opposition,” she said. “My thought is, to put it on the ballot right now is untimely. Let’s not rush to the decision…Take your time and get the voters behind it.”
Council members weren’t in a position to delay the vote because it was not on the agenda for action, but Councilwoman Lee Haydu said she was aware the topic was being discussed in the community.
“One of the things that has been out there (is) that this is going too fast,” Haydu said. “There’s a lot to understand… I’ve put a lot of work into this. I don’t want to see this go down because we’ve missed something.”
“I think that we should keep moving forward and see what solutions emerge,” Councilman Don Mosier said. “My sense is that we have been making extraordinary effort to involve all our citizens.
“We’re hearing a lot from a relatively small fraction of our citizens,” he said. “When I walk around or have coffee downtown I start hearing more positive responses than pure negative responses that are reflected in our written communication.
“I don’t favor delaying the election,” Mosier said. “This seems a little bit premature to change course when we’re right in the middle of a very well-planned effort. I resent the idea that we’re trying to ramrod a plan down anybody’s throat. We’re trying to reach…community consensus and listen to people.”
“I think we could do a better job communicating to the community the do-nothing outcomes,” Councilman Terry Sinnott said. “The village will decline if we do nothing and personally I don’t want to be part of that.”
Based on the comments received, the major concerns are financing the plan, impacts on surrounding neighborhoods, the installation of roundabouts and increased building heights on the west side of Camino del Mar.
Council members will discuss those issues during upcoming meetings in May and June according to the following schedule:
May 21 Streetscape and parking
June 4 Neighborhood protection, financing and implementation
June 18 Development regulations
June 25 General specific plan workshop
The public review and comment period ran from March 19 through May 4. During that time staff held question-and-answer sessions that were attended by 38 residents. A summary of the questions and answers is on the city website.
Information booths have been set up at farmers markets and other city events. Staff and council members have held several presentations, open houses and workshops about the specific plan and downtown revitalization.
“We’ve been working at this for a long time,” Mayor Carl Hilliard said. “We’re all acting in good faith to try and get something that is going to be wonderful and workable for our community.
“I think stopping and backing up is really the wrong thing to do,” he said. “As these issues develop and are talked about in the community and at the council level in our workshops, we’ll find out if we have any show stoppers that we have to back up on.
“We need to go forward…to give the community the kind of confidence and assurance that this is going to be a great solution for all,” Hilliard said.
Meanwhile, the city’s Sustainability Advisory Board is supporting installation of roundabouts along Camino del Mar as part of the plan because of the environmental benefits.
“Two decades of intersection control modeling and software development, as well as empirical studies of busy highway intersections, document substantial short- and long-term benefits from installing modern roundabouts,” board members wrote in a memo to City Council.
Motor fuel, air pollution and greenhouse gases are all reduced with the use of roundabouts, the report states.