03/24/10

MERRIAM MOUNTAINS

San Diego – The San Diego County Board of Supervisors by a 3-2 vote today denied a residential, commercial and open space project on the west side of Interstate 15 and northeast of San Marcos, known as the Merriam Mountains Master Planned Community.

Vice Chairman and Fifth District Supervisor Bill Horn said, “I am very disappointed with the outcome on what should have been a major boost to our county’s depressed economy. Despite false accusations from a multi-billion dollar New York Hedge Fund that fueled the opposition, my staff met with both sides of the project. County staff documented how this development satisfied the requirements of our County General Plan to build west of Interstate-15 along transportation corridors. Homes will have to go somewhere. Now that this project has been denied, it will be harder to keep high density residential development away from back country areas east of Interstate 15.”

Supervisor Horn said, ”I believe today’s decision was based on arbitrary interpretations of pending legislation related to green house gases in Sacramento and speculation about a General Plan Update for the County that has not been set. Unfortunately, the message sent by the votes of three members of this Board is that there is a defacto moratorium on building in San Diego County. We desperately need to revive our local economy and put people back to work. The building and trades industry estimates there are thousands of people unemployed, which has had a devastating impact on families and communities. The denial of Merriam Mountains means hundreds, if not thousands of jobs will not be filled by people who are ready to work. When you consider the benefits of related jobs, we are talking about a huge economic loss for our region in the tens of millions of dollars in addition to not having major infrastructure improvements at Interstate 15 and on Deer Springs Road.”

Supervisor Horn thanked those who took part in the public discussion and commended the County Land Use & Environmental Group for addressing all concerns on water availability, fire safety, and air quality and road improvements.

Today’s five-hour hearing brought together the entire Board of Supervisors following a December 9, 2009 meeting in which the project received a 2-2 vote with Supervisors Bill Horn and Greg Cox in favor and Supervisors Dianne Jacob and Pam Slater-Price in opposition. Supervisor Ron Roberts was absent while attending a meeting of the California Air Resources Board (CARB) in Sacramento. Supervisor Roberts requested a new hearing so he could participate and because of that, all testimony had to be reheard today.

Supporters and opponents of the Merriam Mountains project numbered approximately 200 at today’s meeting and were about equally divided for and against.

After a presentation of the project was made by the County Land Use & Environmental Group, which recommended approval, opponents presented their rebuttal and then individuals on both sides addressed the Supervisors.

Supervisor Dianne Jacob made a motion to deny the project and it was seconded by Chairwoman Pam Slater-Price. Supervisor Roberts voted for denial while Vice Chairman Horn and Supervisor Cox voted in the minority, effectively bringing to an end a development that has been in the planning stages for more than ten years.