Environmental documents related to a proposed 48-home subdivision near Batiquitos Lagoon appear to be in order, the Encinitas City Council decided Wednesday, April 24, as it unanimously rejected an appeal filed by a lagoon preservation group.
Councilman Joe Mosca said he believed the city’s Planning Commission had made the right move in approving the proposed subdivision last month.
The Batiquitos Lagoon Foundation, which appealed the commission decision, ought to be praised for its efforts to protect the lagoon over the years, but its representatives didn’t raise any new issues with this proposed development project on Wednesday, he said.
“I don’t really see any evidence that was introduced here today that is contrary to what was produced before,” Mosca said.
Mayor Catherine Blakespear said the development could have been far more intensive than what’s proposed. Under the site’s zoning, 400 apartments could have been allowed, she noted.
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That law allows developers some flexibility in development restrictions, such as the number of homes allowed or the distance of lot setback limits, if they agree to set aside some units for low-income people. Four of the 48 homes will be set aside for low-income residents.
On Wednesday, April 24, the lagoon foundation’s president, a board member and an attorney for the group told the council that the foundation had many issues with the proposed project and its accompanying environmental impact report, calling it an “insufficient” document.
Among other things, they said the environmental report didn’t do a good job of assessing the project’s impacts to wildlife, particularly the lagoon’s bird species; didn’t propose adequate stormwater runoff control mechanisms; failed to mention an earthquake fault that runs through the area; and didn’t adequately consider traffic impacts to La Costa Avenue.
Board member David Hill said he was particularly concerned about water runoff from the site, saying water contaminated by the new homeowners’ use of fertilizers and pesticides could end up in the lagoon.
David Meyer, the consultant who’s working with the Weston family on the property subdivision project, told the council that the lagoon advocates were “well-meaning,” but their appeal lacked substance. Noting that the environmental impact report contains more than 3,000 pages, he said the proposed development had been studied “and studied exhaustively.”
Plans call for a “state-of-the-art” stormwater detention basin, so “very little water will ever leave this site,” he stressed.
City planning department employees said that the earthquake fault that the lagoon advocates mentioned doesn’t make a state list of active faults.
For their part, council members said they had concerns about whether the proposed development would prevent a public trail from being built in the region at a later point and asked that the project’s approval be modified so that it mentioned the possibility of a trail project.
Meyer said he wasn’t opposed to the modification, but said it was highly unlikely that a trail would ever be built in the area because of the steep nature of the bluffs.
“I believe it’s physically infeasible,” he said, citing handicapped accessibility standards.
-- Barbara Henry is a freelance writer for The Sn Diego Union-Tribune