OCEANSIDE — Future development of 3,451 acres of Morro Hills farmland is chiefly a matter of having sewers in place.
Zoning restrictions on developing the rural countryside have excluded the area from requesting sewer infrastructure updates that pave the way for more development.
Recently a handful of majority landowners in the area, who currently farm but are struggling with the costs brought on by state and national farming regulations, asked for an update and land use options.
City Council accommodated the request and OK’d adding the area of Morro Hills to the citywide RFP for Sewer, Water and Drainage Master Plans in a 3-2 vote Nov. 9, in which Mayor Jim Wood and Councilwoman Esther Sanchez voted no.
The majority of speakers opposed accommodating development in the rural area that will potentially change farmland to 2.5-acre residential lots.
“I’m disturbed by this request,” Sanchez said. “There are no sewage hookups, no major roads, the impact on Highway 76 will be tremendous. It would be changing our zoning through the back door.”
“It’s the first step in destroying agriculture in our city,” Kyle Krahel-Frolander, Oceanside resident and former council aide, said.
Costs to add sewage, roads, lighting and provide services to potentially 1,000 new homes was also a concern.
“It has potential for some fairly significant costs, just for the study,” City Manager Peter Weiss said.
Others saw development in the area as a logical step forward.
“There aren’t any conspiracies here, we’re just trying to do the best thing for the people of the city,” Councilman Gary Felien said.
“These farmers are getting regulated out of business,” Councilman Jerry Kern said. “I don’t see any problem incorporating it into the Master Plan next year. All we’re going to do is planning.”
Many noted that once sewers are added the land value increases and farming becomes a less viable land use option.
“This is a case of property rights against people with property rights,” Wood said. “We can make people rich by changing their land use, but we are putting the burden on the back of the rest of the taxpayers. Once it is paved over there’s nothing else left.”