OCEANSIDE — A team of residents is collecting signatures in an attempt to overturn City Council’s recent approval of a controversial housing development.
In early November, council approved the North River Farms project 3-2. Council members Esther Sanchez and Ryan Keim voted against the project.
Now, residents are working to collect more than 10,000 signatures by Dec. 20 to place a referendum that would potentially overturn Council’s decision on next year’s ballot.
North River Farms proposes to build 585 units on 214.5 acres of land with additional space used for parks, retail, restaurant and potentially a 100-room hotel in South Morro Hills. Integral Communities, the developer, has also offered to make street infrastructure improvements, install traffic signals, to construct a recycled water main and to develop a trail network.
Traffic congestion, loss of agricultural land, urban sprawl and environmental impacts are amongst the concerns of residents against the project.
After the vote, a group of people began organizing on the Oceanside Votes Facebook page.
“Please sign the referendum to MAKE the council wait until we update our general plan and the South Morrow [sic] Hills Agri Vision BEFORE they allow developers to develop what THEY want to see out there,” said Joe Hill in a post on the page.
Arleen Hammerschmidt is among a group of residents who are out collecting signatures in front of various storefronts and shopping centers throughout town. She leads a team of about 10 people who are also collecting signatures.
Hammerschmidt said on average it takes her about a day and a half to collect 49 signatures.
“I no longer trust council to make decisions in the best interest of the city,” Hammerschmidt said. “Especially because this is the opposite of smart growth.”
Hammerschmidt also has a problem with the development taking over land originally zoned for agricultural use.
“I don’t like putting houses on prime agricultural land,” she said. “That doesn’t fit into our General Plan.”
The team is trying to collect 12,000 signatures to make up for any invalid signatures.
According to City Clerk Zeb Navarro, the city has not received any documents or word on the referendum from proponents.
“We also do not have any copies of the referendum or have we distributed, made available, nor created any petitions for circulation,” Navarro said.
Navarro also said the City Clerk’s office does not have copies of the petition available.
Hammerschmidt said a referendum is part of the democratic process.
“It’s the last thing we can do,” she said. “It’s up to the citizens.”
Samantha Nelson covers Oceanside, Camp Pendleton and the decommissioning San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. She earned her journalism degree from the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University, and has previously reported for The Athens Messenger in Athens, Ohio, and USA Today in McLean, Virginia. Follow her on Twitter: @samm1son