Eden no more, continued

So, in September, 2003, Harmony Grove was “freed” from Escondido’s sphere of influence. That should mean that New Urban West would have to build a self-contained sewage treatment plant for their 730-home “village”. However, an article in the April 15, 2004 UT San Diego makes it clear that New Urban West (NUW) quickly approached Escondido with the idea of paying Escondido to process the sewage produced in the 730 homes plus commercial development. In that article former Councilwoman June Rady pointed out the obvious—the purpose of removal of Harmony Grove from Escondido’s sphere of influence was to get around Prop. S.

http://www.utsandiego.com/uniontrib/20040415/news_1mc15sewer.html

The Escondido City Council would have considered NUW’s sewage proposition at their April 21, 2004, meeting had not LAFCO intervened by pointing out to the city and county officials that California law prohibited cities from extending their sewage treatment to areas outside their spheres of influence, unless it was an emergency. The executive director of LAFCO, Michael Ott said that NUW’s Vice President Tom Zanic had been informed of that prohibition at the September LAFCO “de-sphering” meeting. Zanic said he had no memory of hearing that. Well, we all have selective memories. Supervisor Bill Horn, who was then the county representative on LAFCO, said that LAFCO was making decisions that should be made by the county’s planning department. http://www.utsandiego.com/uniontrib/20040417/news_1mc17urban.html Then Mayor Lori Pfeiler, and Councilmembers Sam Abed, Ed Gallo, and Marie Waldron, were all supporters of the idea to let NUW hook up to Escondido’s sewage treatment facility, the HARRF, only Councilman Ron Newman opposed the proposal.

So, one would think that would be the end of any discussion about the use Escondido’s sewage facility by NUW. Not so. In September, 2005, the Escondido City Council voted (by a 4 to 1 vote, Newman voting no) to conduct a $587,000 engineering study of expanding capacity of the HARRF to provide service to a “sewer maintenance district”—AKA Harmony Grove Village.

http://www.utsandiego.com/news/2005/sep/27/sewage-proposal-raises-questions-for-one/2/?#article-copy

There was to have been hearing by LAFCO on the matter on December 5, 2005. The Escondido Creek Conservancy had encouraged a public outcry against NUW’s sewer proposal as an illegal and environmentally unsound. http://www.thecomputersmith.com/tecc/preserve.html June Rady, then President of the League of Women Voters, San Diego North County Central, wrote:

Discord in the Harmony Grove

Will the proposed ‘Harmony Grove Village’ project bring a sewer system to Harmony Grove? The project’s developer, Santa Monica-based New Urban West (NUW), thinks so.

   After first promoting its project as a 742 single-family detached home development on 468 acres using an onsite ‘package sewer’ system, we now find NUW before the Escondido City Council requesting hookup to the Hale Avenue Resource Recovery Facility (HARRF). By a 4-1 vote in September 2005, the Escondido City Council approved a $587,000 ‘capacity study’ to consider the use of City sewer facilities by a project that lies completely outside of not only the City’s limits, but also outside of its ‘sphere of influence.’

   Approximately two years ago, the community asked that the project area be removed from the City’s sphere, thereby placing the project 100 percent under the jurisdiction of the county of San Diego. This ‘de-sphering’ was approved by the San Diego Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO). LAFCO is a regulatory agency with countywide jurisdiction to discourage urban sprawl and encourage the orderly formation and development of local government agencies essential to the social, fiscal, and economic wellbeing of the state.

   The current proposal to establish a ‘sewer maintenance district’ in the county and connect to the City’s sewer system is not only a shameful ‘end run’ around the wishes of Harmony Grove residents to retain the rural character of their community – it is also of questionable legality under Government Code § 56133, which prohibits a local agency from providing sewer services outside of its jurisdictional boundary.

   On December 5, 2005, LAFCO held a public hearing to consider NUW’s request. The League of Women Voters of San Diego County (ILO) submitted a letter to the Commission expressing our support of LAFCO’s continuing oversight, and stating our strong opposition to approval of the County and NUW’s precedent-setting request to contract with the City of Escondido for sewer treatment capacity.

   In a stunning turn of events, NUW appeared before the Commission and announced the withdrawal of its request to enter into a contractual sewer service agreement with the City of Escondido and would, instead, return to its original plan

of constructing its own self-contained sewage treatment package plant.  

   Nonetheless, the Commission instructed LAFCO staff to return on February 6, 2006 with a legal discussion of Government Code § 56133 and §56434. This hearing is crucial because its outcome will determine whether the Commission agrees with the need for LAFCO purview over future requests by developers for contractual sewer service agreements. http://www.hattula.com/lwv/voter1-06.pdf

There was another good article in the UT San Diego about NUW’s unexpected withdrawal: http://www.utsandiego.com/uniontrib/20051206/news_1m6eproj.html

NUW released its Environmental Impact Report in August of 2006. http://www.utsandiego.com/news/2006/aug/04/new-urban-west-unveils-environmental-report-for/ The project was approved by the County Board of Supervisors on February 7, 2007. http://www.utsandiego.com/news/2007/feb/08/supervisors-ok-harmony-grove-village/ However, before construction could begin, the economy took a nosedive. And so the egg ranches remained for a few more years.

To be concluded in my next blog.

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