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Carlsbad sued over Quarry Creek project
By Thor Kamban Biberman, May 10, 2013

A lawsuit has been filed in Superior Court in Vista against the city of Carlsbad over its City Council’s approval of the planned 656-unit residential portion of the Quarry Creek development adjacent to Oceanside's city limits.

A citizen’s group known as Preserve Calavera alleges the Carlsbad City Council should not have approved the Corky McMillin Cos. roughly 160-acre development last month because it didn’t consider possible impacts to area traffic, to Buena Vista Creek and other water sources, and other issues. The complaint also cited the possible impact to the Marron-Hayes Adobe, which is in a separate ownership but is surrounded by the property.

The development, along the south side of state Route 78 west of College Boulevard, is adjacent to the 380,000-square-foot Quarry Creek Shopping Center that McMillin built years ago. This development calls for a mix of product types that would be predominantly multifamily units.

Todd Galarneau, a McMillin senior vice president, said if there were single-family units, “they would have very small lots.”

About 60 percent of the site would remain in permanent open space.

Galarneau said if all goes as McMillin would hope, grading would begin early next year, with the first units becoming available around the third quarter of 2015.

Perhaps the largest bone of contention is over McMillin’s decision to develop on a 56-acre portion of the property known as "the panhandle” that, while having roads and trails, is otherwise undisturbed. Much of the rest of the property was heavily mined.

Everett DeLano, an Escondido attorney with DeLano and DeLano, who represents Preserve Calavera, said there are numerous problems with placing much of the development on the panhandle, including its proximity to water sources and traffic.

“Every bit of traffic dumps onto Oceanside roads,” DeLano said. “There are no Carlsbad roads that service this project.”

Galarneau, who said “the project that the City Council approved is a very balanced one,” said McMillin plans to spend millions of dollars to mitigate traffic impacts below a level of significance.

“We not only coordinated our traffic plans with Carlsbad, but with Oceanside as well,” Galarneau said.

This will mean improvements to the intersections of Lake and College boulevards, Plaza Drive and College Boulevard, as well as an electronic speed sign on College Boulevard in the vicinity of the project.

“We’re also making a cash payment for improvements to the Vista Way and College Boulevard intersection,” Galarneau added.

DeLano, who may be best known for his battles against the Gregory Canyon Landfill, contends another issue is due to the fact that the nearest fire station to the project is not in Carlsbad but in Oceanside, “and you can’t just expect Oceanside to pick up the slack.”

Galarneau said there are reciprocating agreements between cities on fire protection, and even if there weren’t and the Oceanside station wasn’t there, the community would still be adequately protected.

Diane Nygaard, Preserve Calavera president, who concedes that not having any development on the property “would be a dream come true,” said she might have been satisfied with even a high density development if those units were clustered off the panhandle.

“If you reduced the footprint of the development, you could get more per acre, but this land was originally only zoned for 293 units,” Nygaard said.

DeLano said a revised housing element pushed the working figure to about 500 units within the past couple of years. The Carlsbad Planning Commission later approved zoning for a 600-unit plan that McMillin pushed up to 656 units, telling the city it needed that number to make a sufficiently profitable return. That was the figure approved by the Carlsbad City Council in April.

As for the Marron-Hayes Adobe, which is still occupied, San Diego’s Save Our Heritage Organisation listed that property as one of its most endangered developments due to the specter of the Quarry Creek project.

Galarneau countered that because of the way Quarry Creek project will be situated, the development won’t even be seen from the adobe.

Nygaard said impacts to the El Salto waterfall on the land, which is a Native American sacred site that dates back 9,000 years, must also be considered.

Carlsbad was in the process of being served with the complaint Friday and said it needed more time to digest its contents.

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