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ZONING—Supervisors Settle Lakeside Zoning Dispute



Vote Preserves Status Quo: Neither Total Industry Nor Park

The county Board of Supervisors approved the status quo as the final zoning answer to a parcel of land in East County last week. The decision to either zone all of the Upper San Diego River Improvement Project for heavy industrial use or down zone it for a river park was the first item on the board’s Aug. 9 agenda, but was finally decided after five hours of testimony. The approved plan calls for half the property to be zoned light industrial and the other half heavy industrial. Landowners of the improvement project property, a 595-acre strip of riverfront property in Lakeside, claimed the land’s monetary value would dramatically increase if it were all zoned for heavy industrial use. Community residents believed that would cause blight and insisted a river park was better. Instead, the board approved a modified version of a plan conceived by the Lakeside Planning Group that favored neither group. “This is a case where there was no selection that could give everybody everything they wanted,” said Gordon Shackelford, chairman of the planning group.


Consultant Let Down By Verdict

John Dadian, a government affairs consultant hired specifically for the board’s vote by Lakeside Land Co., the largest land owner on the improvement project property, said he was disappointed with the verdict. “We thought what was the proper thing to do and what would have been right for the community was standard zoning,” Dadian said. The final vote came after more than 14 years of indecision by the Board of Supervisors. The county labeled the two-mile strip a redevelopment project in 1989 and never committed all available tax funds to improve the site. In 1993, a county study determined the improvement project property owners , not the county , should pay $28 million for needed infrastructure improvements, and the owners agreed. However, the property owners insisted their lots were no good to them if they did not receive the M54 zoning upgrade. That zoning allows outdoor business operations characteristic of construction sales and services, but could be used for any type of business. Before Aug. 9, the majority of sites were under a specific plan and thus individually zoned , mostly the limited industrial M52. Lakeside residents were opposed to more outdoor businesses that had too often resulted in the junkyards that currently speckle the center of the community. After years of just plain bad planning Lakeside became known as “Dumpside,” said chairman Shackelford.


General Plan May Have Had Flaws

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A flawed general plan had created dangerous and embarrassing results, he said. Shackelford cited as an example a wood recycling plant fire in 1995 that burned 8,000 tons of wood chips and took three days to burn out, all the while filling the Lakeside valley with toxic smoke that lingered for weeks. And he listed the current arrangement where a fast-food restaurant is located next to a crematorium on Lake Jennings Park Road. The wood recycling plant and the crematorium are on M54 zoned plots, he said. Shackelford’s amended plan called for light industrial zoning (M52) of 125 acres on the western end of the property near Riverford Road and about one-square mile of limited heavy industrial zoning (M54) on the east side bordering Channel Road. Generally, the plan centered on amending the M52 zoning to facilitate any business other than those requiring an M54 zoning. “I just didn’t want to get burned again,” he said. Twenty-three businesses were affected by the board’s decision. Among them was Lakeside Land Co., which bought a 132-acre portion of the property in a joint venture from the city of San Diego for $1.1 million in 1996. The sand mining firm bought out its partner two years later and has since invested millions of dollars in refurbishing the land, the company said. Lakeside Land planned to grade the property for an industrial park similar to the 150-acre 4S Ranch industrial park in Rancho Bernardo. “It (the 4S Ranch park) is in the unincorporated area of the county and it’s pure M54,” said Mark Kennedy, general counsel for Lakeside Land. “That’s an example that you can do it. And there’s not a lot of junkyards up there.”


Study Projected High Tax Revenues

Property tax from the built Lakeside industrial park would have generated $762,000 to $1.35 million annually and created 3,000 to 5,400 jobs, according to a company study. Other companies affected include Hawthorne Machinery, RCP Block & Brick, Southland Envelope, Anderson Drilling, Bill Signs Trucking, Ameron Pipe, Marco Crane, Hanson Aggregates, West Coast Air, Vulcan/Calmat, US Hi-Reach, Superior Ready Mix, Bardon Cabinets, B & B; Equipment, Barnmasters, Freightliner, Bright’s Fuel Stop, Marathon Land & Cattle, Hilliker’s Egg Ranch, Caster Family Enterprises, John’s Trucking, and Pacific Freightliner. The supervisors’ decision became more complicated when accusations of illegal dumping in the river surfaced against Lakeside Land in June. Subsequently, the Department of Fish & Game, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the FBI launched a joint investigation.

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