OCEANSIDE — A scoping meeting to collect community input on the EIR for the proposed North River Farms development of 700-plus homes on prime farmland drew more than an hour of steady feedback from area residents.
Speakers shared strong concerns about traffic, protecting farmland and lack of infrastructure.
Comments about traffic and noise impacts on North River Road, Interstate 15 and College Boulevard were voiced by residents of the Morro Hills, Rancho Del Oro and Fallbrook communities. Speakers said roads cannot handle present traffic, and described the rush hour crawl on a 3-mile stretch of North River Road as currently taking 50 minutes. Bicycle safety on area roads was also mentioned.
Further concerns that tax revenues gained would not provide for the increased demands on water and city services were shared. One farmer said he feared agriculture water use would be cut to provide water for new homes.
Oceanside residents also stated their frustration about the development moving forward despite community objection and lack of support from the Planning Commission and city staff during initial project feedback.
The project proposes four housing areas that range in density from 3.6 to 9.9 units per acre to 15 to 20 units per acre. Included in plans are open space areas that range from 1.4 acres to 7.4 acres. Agriculture land is proposed within three of the housing areas with farm lots from 9.4 acres to 12.9 acres.
Plans also include an education pavilion, permanent farmers market, artisans space and boutique hotel.
Speakers said the dense housing that abuts 2-acre lots does not fit the agricultural area. They said residents’ quality of life would be better served by a transitional development with fewer units. Strong concerns were expressed that prime farmland would be irreversibly changed.
Several residents called development plans reckless and said the only way to halt the project, which has received encouragement to move forward from Deputy Mayor Chuck Lowery, Councilman Jerry Kern and Councilman Jack Feller, is through litigation. They also called out the council for not having a good grasp on area challenges and impacts the project would make.
Others said they feel they have no say in the proposed development that will encourage more housing outside of the city’s smart growth areas.
Speakers also shared the importance of getting the SOAR initiative on the city’s November ballot so residents can vote on land use changes in the future.
The city has determined that the North River Farms project could result in potentially significant environmental impacts and has required an EIR.
The Jan. 16 meeting at Melba Bishop Recreation Center was the second scoping meeting held, due to the Lilac fire preventing some residents from attending the first scoping meeting in December.
City Principal Planner Russ Cunningham shared a summary of earlier feedback gathered. Past comments included concerns about impacts on traffic, water and sewer infrastructure, water resources, public safety, emergency evacuation, agriculture use, schools in Oceanside, Fallbrook and Bonsall, greenhouse gas, induced growth and building within a flood zone.
Cunningham encouraged residents at the January meeting to expand on previous comments and write down their input in addition to speaking for two minutes. Public comments will continue to be collected by the city through January. Comments can be emailed to [email protected].