Second ‘scoping’ meeting set for North River Farms development

OCEANSIDE — A second scoping meeting will be held Jan. 16 to gather community input on what the North River Farms development Environmental Impact Report should study.

An initial scoping meeting on Dec. 13 drew about 70 participants. Due to the Lilac fire precluding some residents from attending, a second meeting has been scheduled.

“It’s not to discuss the merits of the project it’s to collect testimony and comments on the EIR,” Robert Dmohowski, city associate planner, said.

City staff said the scope and size of the 720-unit housing project may present significant environmental impacts. An EIR is required, and will look at just about every CEQA category. This includes agriculture resources, air quality, greenhouse gas emissions, land use and planning, public services, traffic and transportation, and utilities and service systems.

Environmental concerns brought up at the December meeting included traffic impacts, emergency access to main roads, project impacts on roadways, potential flood exposure and loss of agricultural land.

Dmohowski said the January meeting will follow the same format as the earlier meeting and include an overview of the project and time for input on the EIR.

Mailed notices to the second scoping meeting were increased from 632 to 900 to include agriculturally zoned properties in South Morro Hills and Arrowood homeowners beyond the standard notification zone.

In addition to the city-led scoping meeting there has been a neighborhood meeting on the project. Additional monthly neighborhood meetings will be led by the developer.

Dennis Martinek, gentleman farmer, proponent of the SOAR initiative to protect farmland, and city planning commissioner, attended the December outreach and scoping meetings for the proposed development.

“Most people felt they shouldn’t be putting in sprawl development without sufficient infrastructure,” Martinek said.

He said there are strong concerns about increasing density, and changing allowed housing on the 177-acre site from 72 to 10 times that amount. The parcel is also prime agricultural land.

The project did not receive support of city staff or the Planning Commission during an initial screening.

Martinek said the Planning Commission’s recommendation was to put off development for a few years until a city agritourism plan is in place.

He said the council majority subsequently encouraged the developer to move forward with plans despite city staff, commission and citizen objections.

Dmohowski said the project failed to meet city screening criteria, which includes development in smart growth areas, provisions of retail services, improving the jobs to housing ratio and having existing infrastructure.

Dmohowski added City Council provided feedback, but did not vote to support or deny the project.

The proposed North River Farms development is still in the review process. The next step for the applicant is to prepare a draft EIR for the city and public to review. At that time city staff will weigh in on the merits of the project and any environmental impacts that need to be addressed.

If the project moves forward it would require a general plan amendment and zone change by City Council.

Martinek said the January scoping meeting is a critical time for residents to provide their input.

“It gives everyone an opportunity to share the environmental issues that they see as important for the EIR to address,” Martinek said.

The scoping meeting will be held 6:30 p.m. Jan. 16 at Melba Bishop Recreation Center, 5306 N. River Road, Oceanside. Comments can also be emailed to rdmohowski@ci.oceanside.ca.us.

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