According to Phillips, the current general plan forbids the Spring Valley Sanitation District from putting sewer lines north of Rancho San Diego. To get around the restriction, Reynolds Communities solicited the Otay Water District to install pipes connecting Fuerte Ranch Estates to Rancho San Diego.
“I talked with the Otay Water District,” says Phillips, “and they don’t put in lines smaller than eight inches in diameter. That’s big enough to handle 100 units. The presence of the sewer will encourage people nearby to subdivide their properties and sell lots.”
In the Reynolds Communities plan, the sewer line would run south, the same direction as the current drainage flow. Contractors would dig a ditch into Damon Lane County Park and then across to where a residential street called Calle Albara dead-ends near the park’s northeast corner. There the line would connect with Rancho San Diego’s sewer system.
Phillips tells me the Valle de Oro planning group and the Grossmont–Mt. Helix Improvement Association have not wavered in their opposition to Fuerte Ranch Estates since the project was first broached seven years ago. Reynolds Communities then wanted 72 units in the subdivision. By the time it arrived for the first time at the County’s Planning Commission, Reynolds had dropped the number of housing units to 40. In early 2009, the commission rejected the project. At a July 22, 2009 meeting of the board of supervisors, the developer requested that a final decision on the subdivision be postponed. According to a KFMB Channel 8 story later that day, “Reynolds Communities plans to use the time to alter the design to alleviate the concerns of neighbors. William Schwartz, an attorney representing the developer, said his client was ‘smarter’ now and understands changes are necessary. [In the late 1970s, Schwartz worked in the county counsel’s office specializing in planning and land-use issues.] Supervisor Pam Slater-Price said violations of the general plan for the area, which calls for one home per acre, ‘will not get them where they want to go.’… Supervisor Dianne Jacob, who represents the area, requested that the developer work with area community groups and then resubmit a redesigned project to the Planning Commission.”
But Reynolds Communities “did not attempt to work out differences with the community,” according to Phillips. When the Planning Commission took up the project for the second time on January 8, the developer had reduced the housing units from 40 to 36 and decreased the height of the building pad from 16 to 10 feet.
The commission approved the project and has sent it to the board of supervisors for a final vote next Wednesday.
“Those changes were put together by the developer and county staff,” says Phillips. “Our community groups were not consulted. We’ve been able to work with Reynolds Communities on other projects, but not this time. And county staff have been cheerleaders for the project all along.”
Susan Brownlee tells me what it was like going to hearings on Fuerte Ranch Estates. “The developer sits huddling next to a county planner. Community members come up from the gallery to address the commissioners. Suddenly the chairman says, ‘Stop, your two minutes are up.’ It’s very nerve-racking.”