SAN MARCOS — A controversial residential development was annexed by the county into the city of San Marco on Oct. 16, paving the way for the San Marcos Highlands project.
The San Diego County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2, with Nathan Fletcher and Dianne Jacob against, to approve the annexation. This was the second vote by the supervisors, as they voted 2-2 on Sept. 25, with Fletcher and Jacob opposed.
The project calls for 189 homes on the 256 acres of land, which has been toiling in the wheels of local government since 1990. On Sept. 10, the San Marcos City Council approved sending the matter to the supervisors and San Diego Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO). On Oct. 7, the LAFCO board continued the item to its Nov. 4 meeting.
The annexation agreement was needed because the land resides both in San Marcos and the county, according to a previous The Coast News report.
“This is the result of many modifications, concessions and negotiations to get this project as good as it can be,” said Supervisor Jim Desmond.
Matt Simmons, representing the development team, said it was a significant situation working with numerous cities and governmental agencies.
Desmond said the project was approved in 2016 by the San Marcos City Council when he was still mayor. Additionally, many modifications have been made over time.
Also, he said the city, Army Corps of Engineers, all fish and wildlife agencies and Regional Water Quality Control Board all approved the project. The environmental impact report has been certified and the county will be credited for 93 acres of biological open space, Desmond added.
Also, 80% of the land will remain open space with a wildlife corridor.
Supervisor Greg Cox, who was absent at the last meeting, said there has been a lot of progress made and the developer must comply with requirements from Army Corps of Engineers, all fish and wildlife agencies and Regional Water Quality Control Board, to name a few.
“I think there are a lot of reasons why this should be allowed to move forward to LAFCO,” Cox added. “This is a time where we need units of housing developed in appropriate areas. I don’t see why we need any roadblocks.”
Jacob said she couldn’t support the project due to her history of opposing projects taking property in the unincorporated parts of the county, which increases the density the county property by a neighboring city.
Jacob also voiced concerns with targeting the integrity of the General Plan, where the property for the project was downzoned in 2011 during the GP update. In the current plan has one dwelling unit per 10 to 20 acres, she added.
“It’s jurisdictional shopping,” Jacob said. “I cannot and will not support something I have been consistently opposed to.”
The issue has pitted the owner of the proposal — Vista San Marcos LLC — and pro-development legislators against those concerned about preservation of biological diversity and prevention of sprawl-style housing.
Fletcher, the Board of Supervisors’ lone Democrat, said on Sept. 25 he opposed the annexation plan based on concerns brought forward by environmental advocates.
“From my standpoint, we’re all committed to trying to do housing and we obviously wrestle with issues with consistency with the County General Plan. We wrestle with issues of our multiple-species conservation plan,” said Fletcher. “I have some ongoing concerns that I would like more information on surrounding the environmental impacts, the consistency with the General Plan, along with the spheres of influence process in terms of how that gets determined and which jurisdiction gets to decide. And so, it’s not something I’m prepared to support.”