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Challenge targets Caruso plan. Nonprofit files for injunction to stop citizens' initiative OK'd by Carlsbad City Council
By Phil Diehl, October 22, 2015

The nonprofit North County Advocates filed for an injunction Wednesday seeking to stop Caruso Affiliated from building a shopping, entertainment and open-space destination on the shore of Carlsbad's Agua Hedionda Lagoon.

Documents filed in the Vista Superior Court state that Caruso's 85/15 Plan - a citizens' initiative approved unanimously by the Carlsbad City Council in August - is invalid because it is "illegally vague" and gives the city no power over future activities on the property.

"It goes too far," said attorney Everett Delano, who is representing an environmental group called North County Advocates. "Our point is that it overreaches the bounds of what you can do with an initiative."

Caruso Executive Vice President Matt Middlebrook said Wednesday there is no basis to any of the group's assertions.

"This is one more step in their efforts to kill the 85/15 Plan," Middlebrook said.

The Caruso proposal would create an upscale shopping and entertainment complex, surrounded by picturesque open space, on a 203-acre property east of Interstate 5 at Cannon Road. The plan calls for the construction of a Nordstrom-anchored shopping center on 27 acres, or 15 percent of the property, and the preservation of about 176 acres, or 85 percent, which would be used for strawberry farming and other agricultural uses, open space with public access, and habitat preservation.

Delano's challenge also claims the initiative does not provide the financing mechanisms to pay for the environmental protection features outlined in the plan.

"There's no actual commitment to fund any of the things they say they will do," Delano said.

The legal claim also states that the initiative is inconsistent with Carlsbad's city charter and its growth management plan, as well as Proposition E, which voters passed in 1986 to limit growth and keep public facilities such as roads, parks and libraries on pace with development.

Representatives of Los Angeles-based Caruso Affiliated have been in Carlsbad for more than three years working on the proposal and meeting with neighbors, environmental groups, business leaders and others to create a project that would garner strong support. The company spent more than $2.5 million in the first half of this year, much of that on consulting and advertising, to gather the signatures it needed to present the initiative to the City Council.

Supporters of the project include the Agua Hedionda Lagoon Foundation, the Carlsbad Chamber of Commerce and Jimmy Ukegawa, whose family has been farming near the lagoon for generations.

Still, the proposal has encountered opposition. Delano said the North County Advocates' challenge is separate from an attempt by another nonprofit group, Citizens for North County, to pass a referendum that would overturn the council's approval of the initiative.

Citizens for North County submitted more than 9,000 signatures in support of the referendum to the Carlsbad City Clerk's office on Sept. 24. The San Diego County Registrar of Voters has until Nov. 5 to verify that at least 6,523 of those signatures belong to registered voters in the city. If that number is met, the Carlsbad City Council must at its next meeting either overturn its approval of the initiative or place the referendum on a public ballot.

North County Advocates was formed in 2009 by a group of mostly Carlsbad residents who organized to oppose a 93-acre commercial complex proposed at La Costa Avenue and Rancho Santa Fe Road,

philip.diehl@sduniontribune.com

Caruso

Caruso Proposal would create upscale project

 

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