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The proposed residential development, Valiano, lies at the crossroads of Mount Whitney Road and Country Club Drive. The property encompasses 209 acres of unincorporated land between the cities of San Marcos and Escondido. Photo by Paige Nelson
The proposed residential development, Valiano, lies at the crossroads of Mount Whitney Road and Country Club Drive. The property encompasses 209 acres of unincorporated land between the cities of San Marcos and Escondido. Photo by Paige Nelson
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Higher-density housing plans spark debate

Early development plans to build 362 new homes in Eden Valley have some residents concerned. 

“This has reinforced what we’ve always believed — development equals more development,” said JP Theberge, Board Member of the Elfin Forest and Harmony Grove Town Council.

Theberge has been a resident for two years and said people are worried about losing their way of life and community character to big developers.

“Our motto is to keep it rural,” Theberge said. “This is one of the last few pockets of rural areas in San Diego and we want to keep it that way.”

The proposed project, known as Valiano, is a gated residential development that would occupy 209 acres of unincorporated land between the cities of San Marcos and Escondido.

Construction of Harmony Grove Village, a 742-home-development adjacent to the property is already underway and would bring the total number of houses in the area to more than 1,000.

New Urban West, the original developer of Harmony Grove Village, opened communication lines and collaborated with residents to ensure the layout blended with the rural community.

After dozens of public meetings, the revised plan was approved by the County Board of Supervisors in 2007.

“The community has worked diligently for the past 10 years, on taxpayer money, to plan for overall density,” said Jacqueline Arsivaud, Vice Chair of Elfin Forest and Harmony Grove Town Council.

The community’s collaborative efforts with county planners led the county to adopt a General Plan in August 2011, which zoned the property for minimum lot sizes of one and two acres.

A community plan for Harmony Grove was approved at the same time to draw a “village boundary” and prevent further urbanization of the area.

The new development encompasses about 50 acres of Harmony Grove and would require a general plan amendment to rezone the property from agricultural to semi-rural with half-acre lots.

Developer Integral Communities also plans to include public multi-use trails, smaller private trails, an equestrian staging area and parkland.

“It’s not to say we don’t want any development,” Arsivaud said, “but the rules should apply to everyone.”

Janine Huston, a 12-year resident of Eden Valley, believes amending the general plan this way will jeopardize its overall intention and allows for irresponsible development.

“We realize property owners should have the right to build on their own land,” Huston said, “but this feels like a slap in the face.”

In lieu of a formal town council, Huston formed a group to host community meetings called Friends of Eden Valley for Responsible Development.

Huston said more than 50 people have attended the meetings so far — a considerably high turnout for a neighborhood of about 80 homes.

“It’s really a trial case for the County Board of Supervisors,” Huston said. “What is their commitment to honoring the community plan?”

The first public EIR scoping meeting will be held at the Elfin Forest Fire Station July 10 at 7 p.m. A Notice of Preparation Document, containing a description of probable environmental effects, is available online and is open for commentary until July 19.

The County Board of Supervisors will not vote for project approval until 2015.


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M.Smyth May 16, 2014 at 3:00 am

I was watching wildfire coverage in the Harmony Grove area from cbs 8 online the last few days and looked up the country club drive area on Google maps. The street view was from 2011 and showed a meandering road traversing a peaceful semi-rural setting. Then i switched to Google satellite view dated 2014. Landscape butchered,hills mowed down,just another subdivision waiting for the ticky-tacky houses to be built. And after that the next wildfire to come along. Shame on those who signed off on this!

M. Straupe July 22, 2013 at 11:10 pm

To approve Integrals’ Plan across the board would be a grave injustice to the residents of Eden Valley and surrounding communities. Clustered housing crowded onto tiny lots is completely at variance in the midst of the large lots, some ranging as large as 5, 10 and 20 acres of private homes, horse ranches and vineyards of Eden Valley. Achieving a balance between economics and the health of our environment is vital to achieving a balance between private property rights and the goals of the community.

Amy Molenaar July 11, 2013 at 4:19 pm

Thank you for providing this great overview of the situation. We are certain our valley will be severely impacted by any further development. This valley has a narrow two-lane road and it cannot safely support any more traffic. Even today (prior to the 742 homes and tripling of traffic due in 2015) Traffic “impacts” are seen all along Harmony Grove/Elfin Forest Road: fencing, sign posts and the sheer granite rock that abuts our road showcase the scars of excessive car accidents – most of which go unreported. We, personally, have also seen a significant reduction in the amount of wildlife tracks at the creek – likely a result of the noise and land destruction related to the current Standard Pacific Project which is less than two miles away. Another development is a threat to the biodiversity of this valley, our rural way of life, and our residents’ health, safety and peace of mind.

Jacqueline Arsivaud July 11, 2013 at 11:18 am

Great article, but just as a point of clarification, the Village Limit Line was adopted back in 2007, along with the Harmony Grove Village project approval, and was indeed supposed to “contain” density, along with a Village Development Pattern (VDP) that placed the highest density housing at the center of the project, with decreasing concentric density towards the edges of the project.

This careful planning effort represented a huge compromise from the local community (taking 742 homes in a community of around 400 existing dwellings..) to take our “fair share” of density while trying to maintain the essential rural character of the existing homes. Of course since then developers have targeted surrounding properties to try to benefit from this hard-won compromise, now arguing that since there is approved higher density in one development, “it’s just good planning” to site similar density around it, hereby completely ignoring the Village Limit Line. It’s not good planning, it’s leap-frog development.

The message this sends to rural communities around the county is that compromise with developers may be a fool’s errand, and that a more combative and less accommodating stance may be in their best long term interests. This is especially true when the decision-makers who praised the spirit of collaboration when approving the initial project now turn their backs on the years of careful planning at taxpayer’s expense, to grant exceptions to just about anyone who asks for them, as they did by granting additional density by fiat to both this developer and the Harmony Groves Meadows developer, just for the asking. Existing property owners and long term residents who have invested in their homes over the years have property rights too, and we look forward to defending those in whatever venue it will take.

Our community demonstrated in 2006 that it could force the largest home builder at the time, Lennar Homes, to rescind their application for Bridges Unit 7, simply by making it a better business decision for them to do so. We had to sue both the county and Lennar to drive the point, but in the end it was a win-win solution where Lennar received the full appraised value of the land they owned, and our community plan was respected. We stand ready to look for similarly constructive solutions in the Harmony Grove area.

M. Straupe July 11, 2013 at 10:31 am

Thanks for calling attention to the increase in density proposed by the developer into our semi-rural community.

Rusty Riley July 10, 2013 at 9:55 am

Great article. Thanks for shining light on this situation. Please keep up the great work.

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