"Merriam Mountains" housing project fails on tie vote - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

"Merriam Mountains" housing project fails on tie vote

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SAN DIEGO, Calif. (CNS) - The San Diego County Board of Supervisors today tentatively denied permits to a high-density housing project across Interstate 15 from Lawrence Welk Village.

The Merriam Mountains project was rejected on a 2-2 vote in an unusually long meeting that went almost six hours and didn't end until after 4 p.m. Some meetings, when all the items are on the consent agenda, are as short as 20 minutes.

The decision against the planned community, which was designed to include 2,630 housing units in a 3.5-square-mile area north of Deer Springs Road and between Interstate 15 and Twin Oaks Valley Road, was tentative because of the tie prompted by the absence of Supervisor Ron Roberts. He was in Sacramento at a meeting of the California Air Resources Board regarding alleged fraud by a key researcher.

Roberts is allowed to ask the board to reconsider the measure when he returns.

Board President Dianne Jacob said her problem was the high-density nature of the project.

"Is this the right location for a project of this density?" Jacob asked. "I look at the surrounding area. It's rural-residential. It's low-density."

Many development projects now are high-density because high costs are cutting into the profit margins of home builders. Also, a desire to preserve open space has planners looking at putting more people in smaller areas.

"This density is just far beyond anything I expect to see in this area," Jacob said. "It's a wonderful project in the wrong area."

Jacob and Supervisor Pam Slater-Price voted against the project.

Supervisor Greg Cox, who joined Bill Horn -- who represents the district -- in support, said general plan changes are coming in the future regarding density and water use.

The project had good amenities and was well-designed, like Lawrence Welk Village, which he described as "dense and visually pleasing."

The county's project manager for Merriam Mountains, Sami Real, said the development would have included commercial buildings and recreational opportunities like a community center and trails. More than half the land would have been set aside for open space.

Numerous speakers were concerned about the impacts of traffic and noise, as well as the increased density.

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