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Carlsbad officials take first steps on Village H property

CARLSBAD — A popular, yet quiet, piece of land has been a source of concern for dog lovers over the past several months.

Known as Village H, the 60.9 acres of land is split on the north and south side of Carlsbad Village Drive and Victoria Lane.

The city is in the midst purchasing the property from Presidio Cornerstone following a legal settlement with Preserve Calavera over the environmental impact report from the Quarry Creek development.

But dog owners are championing the continued use of dogs off leash. On March 12, the City Council approved to leave the property in its current use until residents had a chance to speak on the matter.

On April 23, the council approved moving forward with community input, design options and staff returning in the fall with those data points.

“What we are entering into is not simplistic, but very complex,” Mayor Matt Hall said. “Somehow all these groups are going to have to come together and find some middle ground.”

Kyle Lancaster, Carlsbad’s interim Parks and Recreation director, said the city was delayed in taking ownership due to several easements. However, the city is expected to record the deed in the next two weeks.

In the meantime, the city will move forward with maintenance and cleanup of the property once the deed is recorded. The section of concern would be off limits to the public during the improvements.

In addition, Lancaster said before any official development of a dog park, the city must conduct environmental studies in accordance with the California Environmental Act (CEQA), as two dog parks detailed may affect a wildlife corridor and the neighboring preserve.

The process would take between two to three years, as he compared it to the ongoing process with the Poinsettia Park dog park. At Village H, Lancaster said those reviews and reports would also include storm water, noise, air quality, a conditional use permit, an amendment to the Calavera Hills Master Plan along with other issues related to CEQA and amenities.

“We would require a CEQA process,” Lancaster said. “We don’t necessarily want to put up a fence and call it a day. We’d want to consider water facilities for the dogs, perhaps shade structures.”

Once the deed is recorded, however, dogs will not be allowed off leash or on in the “remaining balance,” (preserve) of the site.

He presented two dog park options, one a more “square” configuration and the other a linear design. The linear park resonated more with the City Council and dozens of residents from the neighborhood in attendance.

The linear option would in essence keep one of the half-mile trail loops.

Numerous residents, meanwhile, spoke in favor of keeping the area an off-leash site for dogs, Diane Nygaard of Preserve Calavera cautioned the council in making a rushed decision.

She said it is critical for the city to conduct the environmental reviews and consult with the Habitat Management Plan. She noted the city has not conducted analysis on several issues including impacts from dogs on the habitat, public safety and liability and said there is no clear vision for the property.

“The question isn’t about an off-leash dog park, it’s about how you do that,” she added. “All stakeholders must be included. There are numerous reasons to take extra care of this and do this right.”

Those in support said it is a great place to run their dogs and kids and is a part of their quality of life.

Corey (he declined to give his last name), said he just recently moved back to the city and lives nearby.

He and his husky-Australian shepherd mix, Seymour, enjoy near daily walks and runs off leash through the property, which has no fence line on its southern border. The trail dumps into a neighborhood where residents also have access.

Corey said he wasn’t sure of what the rules where, even though two signs are posted. Regardless, he said his encounters with dogs have been friendly and fights are rare.

He said there may be a compromise, perhaps, if the city fenced in the backside of the property, thus effectively making it a dog park.

“It’s not too noticeable,” Corey said. “The reason I like it is because it seems like a secret spot. I probably wouldn’t be coming here if leashes were enforced.”

City code requires dogs to be leashed on city property, outside of an enclosed dog park.