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Commissioners deny time extension for housing project map

REGION — A planned housing development in North County that’s been in the works for nearly 30 years has seemingly run out of time.

On Aug. 5, the county’s planning commission denied a request (5-1) for a time extension for the recording of a tentative map from the project’s developer and landowner Joseph H. Jaoudi.

The project known as Country Estates includes the development of 55 homes in the Twin Oaks community near Deeb Drive and Hardell Lane. The area falls in an unincorporated portion of North County, about a quarter-mile east of Vista.

Before all builds can begin, a tentative map needs to meet state and county standards and then be recorded as a final map once the developer is in compliance with standards.

Based on several factors, however, county staff issued a report recommending the commissioner’s deny the time extension request.

Had the extension been granted the ruling would have allowed the applicant another six years to continue processing the conditions and plans in order to record a final map.

Jaoudi, 79, made an emotional plea to the commissioners during the meeting, beginning with his upbringing in a small village in Lebanon.

He came to the U.S. in 1958 where he finished his education, Jaoudi explained.

“Hard work is not something new to me,” he said.

He added that he has taken this project through the recessions of the ‘90s, 2005 and 2008.

“This project has overtaxed my financial abilities,” he told the commissioners.

So far, he said he’s paid more than $2.5 million to get the map where it is.

The project’s storied timeline shows that it was originally proposed on Sept. 8 1987. It wasn’t until Nov. 20, 1998 that the project was denied by the Planning Commission based on density, increased traffic, sight distance, infrastructure, and fire safety, according to the staff report.

The timeline of the project shows the applicant appealed the commission’s denial to the County Board of Supervisors and it was approved in February 1999.

However, the project hit another snag when its Environmental Impact Report was questioned in court and found to be deficient under review.

In 2005, the Board of Supervisors re-heard the project and rescinded the original approved environmental report and accepted its revision.

Even though the project’s tentative map was approved by the County Board of Supervisors on Feb. 2, 2005, Jaoudi had received one stay of time period and four state of California enacted automatic time extensions, which extended the expiration date on the tentative map to March 23, 2016.

Jaoudi filed for the time extension request on March 17, the requested submission enacted an automatic 60-day extension, creating a new expiration date of May 23, 2016.

According to staff, it takes approximately 12 to 18 months to process and record a final map once the tentative map is approved.

Jaoudi has had 11 years to record the final map — more than three times as long as what is standard, according to the staff report.

According to the report, the applicant didn’t complete all necessary information to have the final map recorded, including stormwater and water quality requirements; biological mitigation, biological monitor contract not received, noise monitor contract not received, resource management plan not submitted to address sensitive flora.

CEQA review was also not completed, according to the report, due to new impacts, not addressing grading plan comments, and on-site and off-site improvement plans comments not complete.

The Country Estates project would subdivide 77.9 acres into 55 residential lots ranging in size from 0.5 acre to 1.6 acres, and include three open space lots.

The staff report showed that the Twin Oaks Valley Community Sponsor Group on May 18, asked the county not to allow the time extension request, citing the project’s documents were out of date, and also expressed water, fire safety and traffic concerns.

According to the staff report, more than 150 emails, 500 flyers and dozens of phone calls were received protesting the time extension request.

During the commission meeting, all public comments made were against the project and the granting of the time extension.

Dee Folse, a Vista resident said the project just wasn’t a fit in the community.

He also railed against Jaoudi’s plea that he’s spent a lot of money already on the project.

“All these projects are expensive,” Folse said. “That’s the risk you take on as a developer.”

Jaoudi explained the last four years have been “very difficult.” His wife had passed away and he’s suffered health issues of his own.

“I’m not Shea Homes, I’m not Standard Pacific, I’m one individual that worked hard all my life and put this thing together,” Jaoudi said in response to critics calling him a “developer.”

Commissioner David Pallinger, representing District 5, said the issue was tremendously complex.

“Obviously development is not for the faint of heart, or somebody that doesn’t have consistent day-in-and-day-out expert advice on processing that map.”

“Typically I try to support individuals that are trying to move forward with projects to provide the much needed housing in the county,” Pallinger said. “And this is just a very unfortunate situation here for Mr. Jaoudi, and I feel for him terribly, but without those issues resolved…I think it’s nearly impossible to make the findings for an extension here. It’s a tragic situation.”

Jaoudi has the ability to appeal the ruling with the County Board of Supervisors.