What’s in a ballot measure opposition statement, Lilac Hills Ranch fans, should be settled by San Diego Superior Court Judge Eddie C. Sturgeon almost immediately following a Tuesday, Sept. 13 hearing.
The ever-contentious, and litigious, question of placing 1,700 homes and 90,000 square feet of commercial space on agricultural land that is currently zoned to hold 110 new homes and no commercial space in very rural North County hit the legal fast track with yet another dispute to add to years of contention.
Not content with merely executing an end run around zoning laws, this time developer Randy Goodson’s Accretive Investments challenged the short-form opponent ballot statement to what is called Measure B, saying arguments contained therein were “false and misleading.”
Sturgeon has until Sept. 14 to decide whether the opposition ballot statement can go as originally placed with the Registrar of Voters office that must be finalized that day for the Nov. 8 election.
It’s a key issue since voters don’t tend to read something like the full 600-page ballot initiative. Instead, the may look at the page-long short-form arguments for and against a ballot initiative in making electoral decisions.
Measure B, like everything with the proposed masterplanned community in the middle of nowhere, save Interstate 15 near Valley Center and Bonsall, already has proven — What else? — controversial.
Accretive was denied approvals by nearly all relevant community planning groups, then did its first end run somehow convincing county planning staff to recommend the project citing new green energy offsets alleviating zoning restrictions.
Yet, it was not to be. After Supervisors Bill Horn, whose property abuts the proposed Lilac Hills Ranch footprint, twice was called upon by state ethics officials to recuse himself, the project was rebuffed by voting supervisors.
Like the Monty Python Knight who says Ni, Goodson didn’t give up, instead collecting enough signatures to put Measure B on the ballot, but not just any ballot. Rather than allow only voters within the area affected by the proposed development to decide, Measure B allows all voters in the county to have a say.
James Sutton, an attorney affiliated with Accretive filed a petition for a writ of mandate to change the opposition argument Thursday, Sept. 1 asking the judge to require Registrar of Voters Micheal Vu to delete and amend “false and/or misleading statements.”
Accretive opponents, led by former County Supervisor Pamela Slater-Price, one of the defendants of the current ballot language for No on Measure B, said the Accretive challenge “a word-smithing game,” accusing Accretive of trying to intimidate her and the voters.
Defendants in the lawsuit were notified they were named in the matter on September 2. Petitioners failed to provide any additional information to the No on B campaign about the substance of their concerns prior to the court hearing on Tuesday morning.
Individuals who endorsed the ballot statements were named in the lawsuit. Aside from Slater-Price, defendants in the lawsuit included: Jeanne Brown, President of the San Diego Chapter of the League of Women Voters; Diane Coombs, President of San Diegans for Managed Growth; Martha Cox, President of the North County San Diego Chapter of the League of Women Voters; Dr. Lou Obermeyer, retired Superintendent of the Valley Center-Pauma Unified School District; Victor Reed, retired Escondido Fire Chief; and Pat Zaharopoulous, President & CEO of Middle Class Taxpayers.
Short-form arguments against the project “completely disregard the truth,” Sutton said. “For example the initiative does not exempt fire safety, road and school improvements, does not force county taxpayers to pay for improvements, and does not claim to provide affordable housing,”
“I don’t see how they could possibly claim that ours was not accurate, because I have relied upon the county’s report, which was an analysis of the impacts,” Slater-Price said.
“Across the county, concerned citizens are uniting against this effort to secure what amounts to taxpayer subsidies for an ill-conceived, poorly-located development,” Slater-Price said. “I stand by every statement in the ballot arguments submitted against Measure B.”
“Every word in our ballot statement and rebuttal is based on the County’s analysis of the ballot measure or on statements previously made by representatives of Accretive Investments,” said James Gordon, member of the No on B campaign committee.
“This lawsuit is just one more attempt by this developer to distract the voters from the truth: Measure B is a bad deal for San Diego County,” Gordon said. “San Diegans will not be intimidated out of speaking the truth.”
Back Story (For more, visit LHR_County_Impact_Statement.)
Over six years in planning stages, LilacHills Ranch is the brainchild of developer Randy Goodson and his Accretive Group. Jon Rilling is president and project manager. It’s a down-sized version, about one-third the size of Goodson’s award-winning San Elijo Hills set in a more urban setting straddling San Marcos and Carlsbad.
Opponents said the project violated San Diego County land use regulations and General Plan requirements. Other criticism centers of the project;s need for eminent domain confiscations and unwillingness to expand roads to account for greatly increased traffic in the rural setting. This would cause safety and evacuation problems in an area prone to deadly wildfires, opponents said.
Each local community planning group within shouting distance of the project voted nearly unanimously in opposition of the plan. Bonsall, Valley Center and Pauma Valley groups actively opposition with the five year plan. Opponents call it leapfrog development prohibited by county General Plan provisions and citizen preference.
Accretive CEO Randy Goodson, the developer, maintained Lilac Hills conformed to the General Plan and will provide much needed housing in North County, while promoting a pedestrian friendly, green environment. Even opponents have praised the design of the housing development, but say the location is inappropriate.
Existing zoning would allow for 110 homes on the property. Goodson and Accretive propose 90,000-square feet of commercial, office and retail space, including a 50-room country inn. Plans calls for around 900 traditional single-family homes; 164 single-family attached homes; 211 residential units surrounding retail shops.
The project calls for 468 single family homes for seniors in its 1,706-home configuration along with a senior community center, residential care facility and memory care center for Alzheimer’s patients.