Project would negatively impact Sycamore Canyon, Mission Trails areas, say opponents, who accuse Cities of "stealth" attempt to approve project without notifying Santee residents
By Miriam Raftery
March 27, 2011 (Santee) – First proposed in 2004, the 430-unit Castlerock housing project stalled due to the economy. But now developer Pardee Homes wants to move forward. Although the 203.64 acre site is located in the City of San Diego, the prospect of annexing the property to Santee is being pushed by San Diego.
But the City of Santee failed to provide notice on its website of a March 14 scoping meeting—and Santee residents complain that they were not informed about a project that could have negative impacts on the environment and public safety.
According to Van Collins with Preserve Wild Santee, the Sycamore Canyon area is “in danger of being destroyed” by the Castlerock units, which he says would ruin views and negatively impact wildlife. The site proposed for development is in the hills opposite West hills high School and is also close to Santee Lakes, Mission Trails Regional Park and the Sycamore Canyon area. Collins' group has document presence of vernal pools and sensitive habitat
on the property
Collins has also stated, “The project will increase existing residents’ vulnerability to wildfire by converting an area that is now largely self-defensible into an area that requires and diverts fire suppression resources during wind-driven firestorms.”
A popular mountain biking trail leading to Gooden Ranch and the centennial Stowe Trail in Sycamore Canyon would also be impacted, opponents of the project have stated in Facebook posts, blog posts on other news sites. In addition, some residents have raised fears about run-off water, citing a recent large sinkhole on Pebble Beach in Santee. Traffic and air quality issues have also been raised.
Michael Silbernagel, who lives on Medina Drive behind the property, posted on Sante
ePatch.com that “The last time Castlerock was an issue Mayor Voepel and the Council sente SanD iego a letter saying Santee would provide no emergency services to the area. San Diego’s first responders are, at least, 30 minutes away.” Annexing the site to Santee would provide the city with revenues to fund emergency services, he noted, but added that proximity to a landfill makes the entire project dubious in his view.
“I can’t imagine anyone paying hundreds of thousands of dollars for a home so they can enjoy the ambiance of a landfill,” Silbernagel said. “The entire project doesn’t make
financial or common sense.”
About 20 people showed up at the March 14 scoping meeting at 6 p.m. Mission Trails Regional Park, where a closed gate and sign stating no parking was allowed after 5 p.m. may have dissuaded some from finding their way inside, project opponents have noted. SanteePatch.com reports that some residents claimed the meeting was held in a “sneaky” fashion.
If the project is approved, the question of whether or not it should be annexed to Santee is a major point of contention. Santee Councilman Rob McNellis, in a comment posted at SanteePatch.com, stated that he opposes the project. But he noted, “As it sits right now, the city of San Diego can not only build homes on this land (if they get their EIR certified) but keep all of the property tax revenues derived from the project and stick the city of Santee with the cost of public safety, road maintenance and traffic impacts.” He added that size of the project, op
en space and walking/mountain bike trails would need to be considered and implemented before he would agree to stop fighting the project.
SanteePatch.com reports that one resident cited a rumor that Santee City Council has met in private session and chose to annex the property. The publication asked staff members who attended the scoping meeting in unofficial capacities whether this was true, but they declined to respond. Santee Mayor Randy Voepel, asked for comment by Santee
Patch.com later on, indicated a meeting did occur but declined to comment on whether a back-door deal was made.
“I can neither confirm nor deny, because this was a closed session item under potential lawsuit/real estate,” he said, according to SanteePatch.com. “Staff and the Council are looking at all scenarios and options in light that San Diego is the project’s jurisdiction Everything depends on what San Diego does.”
In addition to approximately 430 single-family homes, the project calls for approximately 4.1 acres of public parks, a pedestrian trail, a half acre of “pocket” parks for residents’ usage, public streets, and 93.20 acres of undisturbed open space—of which a portion would be taken for brush management. Access would be provided from Mast Blvd. on the south.
The scoping meeting was held by the City of San Diego Development Services Department. The DSD has acknowledged that the project may have a “significant effect on the environment” and has identified at least 16 potential issues.
Deadline to provide public comment on the environmental impacts is Monday, March 28. Comments may be submitted via e-mail to DSDEAS@sandiego.gov and reference Project #10046.
View SanteePatch.com’s article at http://santee.patch.com/articles/castlerock-housing-project-meeting-sant... which includes links to information handed out at the scoping meeting and on the City’s website.
Visit a Facebook page for Preserve-Wild-Santee.