Merriam Mountains Requests Supe Rehearing

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Over the transom today from supporters of Merriam Mountains…

Click for the letter requesting a rehearing.

Merriam Mountains claims that misrepresentations influenced vote

ESCONDIDO, Calif. (January 4, 2010) – Today, developers of the Merriam Mountains master-plannedcommunity have filed a request for a rehearing in response to the 2-2 San Diego Board of Supervisor’s tie vote last month that put the project in limbo, despite the numerous job creating and economic benefits to the County.

Merriam Mountains is a proposed master-planned community along the I-15 near Escondido that will build 2,700 new homes, create 14,000 new construction jobs and 250 permanent jobs. Additionally, the project is slated to pump more then $1.5 billion into the San Diego County economy in gross sales, in addition to $685 million in construction wages and $1.1 million in annual taxes to the County.

NNP-Stonegate Merriam, LLC, the developers of Merriam Mountains, cited intentional and negligent misrepresentations of fact at the hearing as basis for the request. “Many project opponents intentionally distorted the facts during their testimony. Unfortunately, some Supervisors took these statements to be factual,” said Joe Perring, Project Manager for Stonegate Development.

Some of the misrepresentations included exaggerated claims about project density, general plan compatibility, traffic, and fire safety. For instance, opponents claimed that a car fire on the I-15 would burn the entire project within 15 minutes. Both County Planning Staff and CalFire documents refute these statements. According to the project Fire Protection Plan (FPP), a car fire could burn existing chaparral on the site within in 15 minutes under existing, uncleared conditions. However, the large clearance zones around the project would keep the fire from spreading into the development. County Staff has confirmed that the Project meets or exceeds all State
and local fire requirements.

At the hearing, Mr. Perring asked for time to rebut statements made by the opponents of the project at the close of public testimony. This request was denied by the Chair. Instead, Supervisors queried County Planning Staff, often interrupting and cutting them short before explanations or corrections could be stated. The Supervisors also chose not to question any of the experts who prepared the EIR, all of whom were in attendance at the hearing.

“Not only were we, the applicant, denied the opportunity to refute what the opponents had misrepresented,” said Perring, “but also County Staff was not allowed to present the full picture to the Board.” According to Perring, the inability of Staff to correct the misrepresentations, despite their best attempts, negatively influenced the Supervisors.

Statements made by a County Supervisor Dianne Jacob in a letter to a constituent further suggest that misstatements made at the hearing did, indeed, influence at least one Supervisor’s decision. In the letter, Supervisor Jacob explained her negative vote by referring to some of the misrepresentations at the hearing. Further complicating the matter, the project was not heard by the full Board. Supervisor Ron Roberts was absent due to his attendance at an air quality meeting in Sacramento. The 2-2 split vote automatically shelved the Project. “After 10 years in the Planning Process, the Merriam Mountains has earned the right to a hearing before the full Board” said Perring. “We deserve our day in court.”

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