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Behold, a Development Battle With a Happy Ending

By Ruarri Serpa , March 22, 2017

With land use issues so prevalent in North County, too frequent is the focus on the developers versus residents: the apartment building that threatens to overrun the neighborhood, or NIMBYs who block a particular project.

Attorney Everett Delano is certainly no stranger to that story, having represented several resident groups in their fights against developers.

But Delano says that a settlement agreement reached between several groups, and approved by the Carlsbad City Council earlier this month, presents another, less told story – that when parties are willing to work together, a project can benefit the residents, developers and the city.

“So often it’s a train wreck. Everyone wants to cover the train wreck,” Delano said. “But if you’re going to cover the train wreck, then you have to cover the successes.”

At issue was a change Carlsbad made to its General Plan and Climate Action Plan, to accommodate Poinsettia 61, a 123-home subdivision on 51 acres in the Aviara neighborhood.

North County Advocates represents a group of residents involved in several lawsuits in North County, including one of the latest against the city of Encinitas.

In 2015, NCA sued Carlsbad, saying the changes the city made for Poinsettia 61 violated the city’s Growth Management Plan, which Delano says “helps to make sure development doesn’t get ahead of other things,” like parks and fire stations.

The parties, which also include the developer, Lennar Homes of California, Preserve Calavera, Friends of Aviara, and Friends of Buena Vista Reservoir, litigated the issue over the next 18 months.

In January, they reached a tentative settlement, which included retaining the Buena Vista Reservoir as a three-acre public park, support for Poinsettia 61, setting aside six acres for habitat preservation and completing a missing section of Poinsettia Lane, with a wildlife corridor under the new bridge.

Delano said that part of why the talks were successful was because of the Growth Management Plan passed by voters. The Growth Management Plan helped provide specific targets the city couldn’t look past when it amended its General Plan, Delano said.

The larger driver behind the talks, Delano said, is that all the parties were willing to make the project beneficial for all.

“I did not imagine over a dozen years ago, when proposals first started coming in … that I would be looking at a project that was this beneficial to the community,” said Friends of Aviara’s DeAnn Weimer, who was a major opponent of Carlsbad’s Measure A, the proposed luxury mall on the Agua Hedionda Lagoon. “Lennar should be commended.”

Diane Nygaard, with Preserve Calavera, said, “it was hard to believe 18 years ago, I would one day speak out in favor of development, but here we are to do just that.”

She said housing projects can help preserve natural resources when they are part of a “package of changes” that aim to do so.

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