06/10/08

For the Record - June 10, 2008

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                 Supervisor Bill Horn
              Fifth District

                   For the Record

                  June 10, 2008

Recently, there have been newspaper stories and television news reports about a proposed road project in Valley Center. The focus of the reports is a proposed road (3A) that would connect West Lilac Road to Old Highway 395.

Here are the facts:

Fifteen years ago, before I was elected Fifth District Supervisor, I served on the Escondido Union School District Board. While selecting a site for the new Valley Center High School I made it clear to the community that Valley Center needed another road out of the area in the event of an emergency.

It is difficult for me to understand how people can say that they were “blindsided” with news of the proposed road when you look at public records associated with action on the project. Here is a timeline, beginning almost three years ago:

September 29, 2005
Circulation Subcommittee adopts responses to County’s Road Network Planning presentation. The Subcommittee recommends that the Valley Center Community Planning Group forward four comments to the County including:
Recommend that three principles guide local connectivity planning:

  1. Create local connections that reduce local traffic on Valley Center, Cole Grade, and Lilac Roads, while retaining rural character.

  2. Increase the number of escape routes for use in emergencies

  3. Plan for the future; establish routes for roads needed 20 and 30 years from now.

October 17, 2005
Staff presents Preliminary Road Network based upon meetings with the Circulation Subcommittee, which includes a road from Cole Grade to West Lilac Road, but stops short of connecting with Highway 395.

March 13, 2006
Chair announces that Circulation Subcommittee is working with the County on GP2020 Circulation Plans. Planning Group is expecting to receive a presentation in April of 2006.

April 10, 2006
Valley Center Planning Group is presented with the Preliminary Staff Recommended Road Network for GP2020, a list of additions, deletions and widening of roads for the future planning of Valley Center. The need to create alternative routes for residents during emergencies and the need for additional routes to I-15 is discussed.

April 24, 2006
Staff presents a road network based upon April 10, 2006 comments including westerly connection from Cole Grade to West Lilac Road connecting it with Old Highway 395 at Nelson Way. Previously titled New Road A is broken into three sections, from Cole Grade to Lilac, from Lilac to West Lilac and West Lilac to Old Highway 395.

VCCPG votes 10-0-1 in favor of new road, including extension to Old Highway 395.

July 10, 2006
VCCPG votes 13-0-0 in favor of the Proposed Circulation Element Network for Valley Center including the Cool Valley Extension, through the Lilac area, to I-15 via Old Highway 395.

July 28, 2006
San Diego County Planning Commission agrees with the Valley Center Community Planning Group and staff and approves the Circulation Element including New Road, broken into two sections, from Old Highway 395 to West Lilac (3A) and from West Lilac Road to Cole Grade at Cool Valley (3B).

August 2, 2006
County Board of Supervisors votes unanimously to approve Circulation Element including the road. Comments as follows:

“Valley Center:

  • On 3A, this new road is critical for Valley Center. 

  • Direct County staff to develop a cost estimate for the road and meet with any willing property owners to develop a Specific Planning Area for the Board Alternative with land use designations necessary to pay for the construction of the road.

  • Direct staff to meet with the property owners, Steve Flynn and Bell Family Trust, to work on a road alignment that does not preclude their commercial development.”

May 1, 2007 
A Circulation Element Matrix is published that includes a discussion about the new road and direction to work with the community to get consensus.

* * * * *

As you can see the timeline shows community support for the road goes back almost three years. Now that the proposed road is on the Circulation Element, I’d like to discuss a few other items.

  • Accurate quotes are critical in journalism, and I don’t believe that is the case in recent newspaper stories. In a North County Times article May 25, 2008, Devon Muto, a county project manager for the County Department of Land Use and Planning was quoted as saying, “’Changing land-use designations on the map to support the road is unique,’ said Muto, the county planner. ‘It’s usually done the other way around.’”

  • When my land policy advisor, Dustin Steiner contacted Mr. Muto about the quote, this was his response on May 26, 2008: “Dustin, I believe that the two quotes are taken out of context. I was asked specifically if the proposed new west Valley Center Specific Planning Area is unique. I explained that it was unique to the General Plan Update in that we did not add any other new Specific Planning Areas but the concept in general is not unique. I said that we frequently have developments that fund specific road improvements. I gave Harmony Grove Village and 4S Ranch as examples. I also said that in general, it is not unusual to develop plans in this manner due to the balance that must be achieved between your land uses and infrastructure.

    “I was also asked if it was unusual to designate a Specific Planning Area before an application by a developer was submitted. I said that we have some examples of this in our existing general plan and we do have a couple County initiated Specific Plans. However, recently it’s been more common that developers initiate the planning.

    “I believe that the reporter pulled those quotes from two different discussions. Devon.”

Having commented on the newspaper report, here are additional thoughts:

  • We all saw what happened during the 2007 fires and the danger of people not being able to evacuate Valley Center during an emergency. As it turned out, more than a thousand people were stranded at Valley Center High School.

  • I have great concern over the impact of legally required Transportation Impact Fees (TIF). Right now, those fees are $2,568 per unit for Valley Center local roads. If this proposed local road (3A) is paid for by TIF, it would further burden residents of Valley Center and could more than double the current TIF.

  • I have always thought that developers should pay for new roads instead of the taxpayers. In the case of the proposed 3A road, the estimated cost is $40 million. 

  • One way we can provide for the future is to manage “smart growth” with housing near transportation nodes such as I-15.

  • This remains a proposal. Over the next couple of years it will undergo extensive environmental review and the public will be able to make comments according to the Department of Planning and Land Use during several General Plan Update hearings. I encourage all residents to participate in those hearings.

  • Finally, I am convinced that Valley Center needs a road that connects Old Highway 395 to Cole Grade Road, and that road needs to be a part of our General Plan Update.

 

 

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