To Study, or not to study, ACPG and County takes a closer look at property east of Alpine

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By: Lori Bledsoe
The Alpine Sun

By: Lori Bledsoe
The Alpine Sun

At the September 24 Alpine Community Planning Group Meeting, the board discussed the probability of studies that will be conducted by the County of San Diego on the properties east of Willows Road, across from Viejas Casino on the south side of Interstate 8.  There are several properties that are possible sites of future development, and the ACPG is requesting a special study to include proposed additions to boundaries, as well as scope of work components. The possible future development of these sites could include 250 to 400 new homes.
This requested special study does not guarantee that development will take place at any time soon, it is just a precautionary attempt to educate the board regarding the proposed possible development that is foreseen to take place, and the necessary infrastructure that will be required to avoid any poorly planned access areas, or facilities that are required for sustainable occupation of the area.
Board member Mike Milligan wanted to make himself clear in that the area is very low on water, and at this time would not support some of the proposed plans of the county.  One of which was to set the well density at one well per every 5 acres. He said, “Water is not available in Alpine, and the water table has dropped dramatically”.  He opposes this particular plan.
At this time, many of the properties are sustained by well water.  This means that the residents in the area have to maintain their own wells, and when the current water table is interrupted by ongoing drought or excessive drawing on the available resources, the residents often find themselves without vital levels of water.  Because of this current water crisis, made worse by our immediate drought conditions, further development in this area is raising concerns for many of the property owners.  One solution to this particular problem is to import water to the area.  This solution presented by Bob Citrano, Planning Manager from San Diego County Department of Planning and Land Use who is working with Padre Dam on the feasibility of such an undertaking.
The import of water to the area is one of the items on the list of the special study to determine feasibility of development and needed infrastructure which includes: water, sewer, access and fire protection.  Also included in this requested study is the determination of how to protect U.S. Forest Service lands from development impacts, explore funding mechanisms, and finally returning to the ACPG with a scope of work necessary so that the people who are responsible for making sensible decisions regarding the planning of our community can proceed with fundamental information and intelligence.
In the summer of 2014, the county already set a boundary proposed by the staff and the ACPG.   In the Fall of 2014, a preliminary Scope of Work was developed by the staff and the economics consultant in conjunction with the United States Forestry Service.  In the Spring of 2015 an external scope of work was reviewed by LAFCO, or Local Agency Formation Commission who is responsible for forming boundaries, the California Water Authority and Padre Dam Municipal Water District.  In the Summer of 2015, the preliminary scope of work was refined.
The recommended boundary of this study is to include properties in sub-area A that are designated: AL-4, AL-5, AL-6, AL-7, AL-11B.  In the center of these properties are two areas that currently belong to the Cleveland National Forest, one parcel is completely landlocked by AL-5 and AL-6, and one property is not landlocked but surrounded on three sides by AL-6 and AL-7.  It was mentioned during this meeting that the special study that is to take place must include the possibility of a land-swap of these two CNF properties.  This is not to say that these properties will be transferring to a private property, but there is an understanding that these two properties may one day be included in the possible development, and this requested study may be wasted if these two properties are not included.
The requested study then is to have the current area studied as is, and also have an additional study with the two properties included with the caveat that these two areas ever, in the future, may be developed.
It was also requested that sub-area C which is located on the Viejas Reservation be included in this study.  This area includes the land located on the south side of Willows Road, just north of Interstate 8 along the Viejas Reservation.  There is also a sub are D that will be studied that is south of areas A&B, which is located in the Palo Verde Ranch area.
Sub-Area C is looking at a scope of work to include Imported Water, as well as Sanitary Sewer, and sub-area D is slated for Imported Water and a road connection that will improve access for emergency facilities such as medical and fire, as well as evacuation possibilities for residents in case of emergency situations.
The scope of work study will include order-of-magnitude cost estimates, identify potential financing mechanism which includes assessment of districts and development of impact fees.  The land development economics include assessing potential land/unit values by lot size, land development financial pro forma models to include; land value per density level, order-of magnitude public improvement costs, and estimating remaining net financial benefits. Also, dwelling units needed to support the corresponding infrastructure expansion.
The fiscal impact analysis will include a range of densities to compare aggregate increase in land value, the public improvement costs and estimate probable absorption timeframes.  It also includes a matrix summarizing strengths and weaknesses.
As presented by Bob Citrano, the next steps for the County to take at this time is to finalize the timelines, prepare and estimated budge and schedule for this study, and determine the board of supervisors hearing date.
Many at the ACPG meeting were in favor of this study taking place.  Bob Citrano indicated that this was going to be an expensive undertaking and the County was only willing to spend so much to uncover the answers being sought by the ACPG. The relevant concerns brought up many attendees to this meeting concerned water resources.  It was mentioned that complete hydrology studies performed in the area for building projects such as the Viejas Casino Complex and Resort did not include well water recovery.
As major development has not taken place other than Viejas, many board members on the ACPG have the conviction that now is the time to study the area, so that if future development takes place, the necessary information for proper planning of the area will avoid poor emergency access and evacuation, as well as proper installation of infrastructure to allow for comfortable and sustainable occupancy.
The ACPG asked the County to go forth with the study, with two members declining to support the study.
Tom Myers wanted the community to be notified that the County will be performing these studies, and that there was discussion of possible ‘land-swaps’ in the area.  However the ‘land-swaps’ that were discussed were purely on a ‘what-if’ level. There are no ‘land-swap’ deals in play at this actual time.
The next ACPG meeting will be October 22, 2015.

To Study, or not to study, ACPG and County takes a closer look at property east of Alpine

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