|A view of the land where the Accretive Group would like to build Lilac Hills Ranch. Photo courtesy of San Diego County
Now the fate of the 1,743- unit Lilac Hills Ranch on 608 acres belongs to the voters — of the entire County.
“We’re not going to decide this issue,” said Supervisor Ron Roberts on Tuesday, joining three other supervisors to officially place the project initiative on November’s ballot for a countywide vote. Supervisors voted 4-0 after hearing a County study outlining differences between the project ballot initiative that voters will consider and the project that County planners evaluated.
Fifth District Supervisor Bill Horn, a resident of Valley Center, whose district includes the Valley Center area where the project is proposed, recused himself after the California Fair Political Practices Commission advised him he would have a conflict of interest because he owns property in the area.
Supervisors said at their July 19 meeting that they were inclined to put the initiative on the ballot. However, they asked the County’s Plan- ning and Development Services Department to assemble an impact report for voters. This report will be part of the election package voters can study prior to marking their ballots.
The analysis compares the initiative version of the project to both the County’s existing general plan and the version of the project that the County’s Planning Commission recommended that the Board of Supervisors approve, with changes and modifications, in September 2015.
The 45-page report was released to the public July 29.
Lilac Hills Ranch’s backers, the Accretive Group, submitted the project to the County for review and processing in 2012. After the Planning Commission recommended the Board approve the project with changes in September 2015, Accretive announced they would seek signatures to put the project on the ballot. The County’s Registrar of Voters certified last month that Lilac Hills had qualified as an initiative.
That gave the Board of Supervisors two possible actions under state elections law — to adopt the initiative project in whole, or place it on the ballot.
During the discussion leading up to the vote Supervisor Greg Cox commented, “The developer is completely within his right to gather the legally required signatures to take this issue to the voters. We’ll leave it up to the voters to decide.”
Accretive has proposed 1,746 residences consisting of 903 single family detached homes, 164 single family attached homes, 211 mixed-use residential units, and 468 age-restricted dwellings within a neighborhood designated for senior citizens. It would also have 90,000 square feet of commercial office space, a 50-room country inn, a 200-bed group care facility, a recycling facility, a water reclamation facility, a new fire station if not a remodel of the Cal Fire existing Miller station, a site for a K-8 elementary school, 13.5 acres of public parks, 11.5 acres of private parks, 16 miles of trails, and 104 acres of biological open space.
The proposed general plan amendment would change the land use category from Semi-Rural to Village while revising the VC and Bonsall community plan texts to add the proposed village.
The project is within both the Bonsall and Valley Center community planning areas, in the VC Municipal Water District, and in the Deer Springs Fire Protection District. It is in both the VC-Pauma Unified School District and the Bonsall Unified School District.
July 19 the supervisors voted 4-0 to certify that the petition had sufficient signatures to qualify for the ballot and to order an impact study be completed by July 29.
Opponents sought a 30-day report period, which would have prevented the initiative from appearing on the 2016 ballot. An Environmental Impact Report was included in the project approved by the Planning Commission, so the board felt that a ten-day period for county staff to compile an impact report was sufficient.
“An exceptional job has been done by all to do this report in just ten days,” said Supervisor Dianne Jacob.
“It truly was a Herculean task,” said Supervisor Dave Roberts.
“I think our staff has certainly risen to the occasion,” Cox said.
The impact study compares the general plan as adopted in August 2011, the proposal approved by the Planing Commission, and the initiative.
“The impact report breaks down a huge complex project,” Roberts said.
“The information is important,” Jacob said. “This is going to give the public additional information, clarity, and transparency on the project.”
A leading opponent of the project, VC resident Steve Hutchison, commented, “The information you have provided will help voters.”
“The applicant has one perspective and the community has another perspective,” said James Gordon, another leader of the opposition. “We will rely on the county’s impact study.”
“I thank staff for a very fair evaluation,” said Pauma Valley resident Patsy Fritz. “We can now educate the voters.”
Although the project does not now comply with the General Plan, the general plan amendments included in the initiative would ensure consistency. “The initiative would comply with the general plan through the amendment,” said PDS project manager Mark Slovick.
Valley Center Parks & Rec board Vice President Larry Glavinic, who opposes the project, commented, “Park offerings by master plan developments such as Lilac Hills are nothing more than private parks masquerading as public parks.” He added, “I view Lilac Hills parks as nothing more than a parasite to the public treasury. We would decline accepting those parks because they are a nonperforming asset.”
The General Plan requires a maximum fire department response time of five minutes for a village area. All of the Lilac Hills Ranch buildings would be within a five-minute response time from either the Deer Springs fire station or the Miller Cal Fire Station. “This project will be in compliance with the general plan response time,” said Accretive founder and CEO Randy Goodson. The general plan amendment would provide conformity, and the project also has the approval of the fire district.
One issue that has dogged the project is whether or not Accretive would be required to build a school for either the Bonsall Unified School District, which supports the project, or the Valley Center Unified School District, which is neutral. Staff said that under the conditions approved last year by the Planning Commission Accretive would have been required to build a school. However, under the terms of the initiative, they are not required to build a school unless they have an agreement with the district in question. They have such an agreement with Bonsall, but not with Valley Center.
“Lilac Hills Ranch committed to enter into an agreement with the Bonsall Unified School District,” Jon Rilling, president of the Lilac Hills Ranch development said.
“We are going to enter into an agreement with Bonsall,” Goodson said. “It is not a condition to build a school at that location.”
There have been discussions between the two school districts and Accretive about transferring the entire project area into BUSD.
“Lilac Hills Ranch will pay for all the costs for a boundary adjustment,” Rilling said.
The initiative is silent about the need to build a school and Slovick added, “We have not been privy to any agreement between the school district and the developer,” Slovick said.
Although the opponents could not keep the project from appearing on the November ballot, they requested that Citizens Opposed to Lilac Hills Ranch be chosen by the Registrar of Voters to write the opposing ballot argument.
“The Registrar of Voters needs to make a key decision before September 13,” said VC resident Mark Jackson. “This group has for ten years now been involved in the project.”
“It’s the most knowledgeable about the project,” Gordon said. “We are a dedicated informed group.”
“I have deep concerns about ballot box planning. I don’t think it’s a responsible way to shape development in our community,” Jacob said as the board prepared to vote.
Cox noted that portions of the impact study would be used by proponents while other portions would be used by opponents. “I hope that the voters will also find it helpful to them,” he said.
“I think our goal is accomplished,” Dave Roberts said. “This report provides voters with the information they need to make an informed decision. It’s up to the voters to make that decision.”
Joe Naiman, special correspondent for The Roadrunner, contributed significantly to this article.
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