Palomar plans move forward - Project now in environmental impact report process
Last updated 8/9/2007 at Noon
Building a new college campus is an immense undertaking. For Bonnie Dowd, assistant superintendent and vice president for finance and administrative services at Palomar College who will supervise the endeavor, it easily could dominate her life for years to come. Although the new Fallbrook education center campus is due to open in 2011, Dowd and others at Palomar College have set in motion a plan to accommodate students for the next 50 years. Located east of I-15 and north of SR-76, the Fallbrook center campus will be placed on an 83.6-acre parcel that abuts each thoroughfare in the shape of a collapsed boot. It will be the second education center among Palomar College’s satellite campuses. Escondido marks the first location.
Escrow closed on the land on June 14. The purchase, made possible by Prop. M, which passed last November, allowed the college to move decisively, buying the raw land for $38,241,542 from Pala Village Investments, a subsidiary of Standard Pacific Corp .; the 15-76 Partnership; and Passerelle LLC. They paid an additional $1,651,500 for Equivalent Dwelling Units (EDUs) required for sewer at current market value through an agreement with Passerelle. While initially 50 EDUs meet requirements, the college has 50 in reserve for future needs.
Dowd said they considered two offers: one at $15 per square foot for graded land, which would have possibly held up development, and a second offer at $10.50 per square foot for raw land, which they accepted. Dowd said they were concerned delays might impact funding restrictions imposed by their Prop. M bond that requires 85 percent of the money be spent within three years of issue. Concerning a comment from a Fallbrook resident that Palomar College paid over 25 times what the original developer paid, Dowd responded that there was no way the district would enter into a purchase agreement without an appraisal. The land was appraised in 2004.
A number of issues have plagued the land now owned by Palomar College. Using the property to its best advantage and preserving its natural resources has discouraged prior potential buyers because part is covered with wetlands. Further, community groups such as Fallbrook Fair Plan have kept a keen eye on the site, not wanting it to become like Riverside County, said member Bob Lucy. Any use of that site and other land in the area is dependent on available water and sewer facilities, of which Rainbow Water has limited supplies. However, the Palomar College site passed from its previous owners with full access to both.
“The whole Passerelle Campus Park is inside the [Rainbow Water] district,” says Chris Brown, spokesman for Passerelle. “Water was never an issue with Rainbow; no issue with regard to the college and Passerelle or the campus project.” By 2011, Palomar College expects to initially open 75,000 to 100,000 square feet of low-level building space to accommodate the needs of students living in North County zip codes. These are people who would normally choose to attend classes at one of their campuses. Although they cannot turn away a student who lives outside their service area, agreements with other community colleges prevent them from advertising for students within their district boundaries.
At full build-out, an enrollment of no more than 8,500 students is expected, of which less than 2,500 will be full-time students. Community concerns about increased student traffic will be addressed in an upcoming Environmental Impact Report (EIR) being prepared by RBF Consulting. It will also include recommendations for managing the environmental issues connected to the wetlands, Dowd says. The draft report is due August 29. Following receipt of the draft, it will be open to public review for a 45-day period with copies at Fallbrook Library, Palomar College Library and online at http://www.palomar.edu.
A revised EIR due in December will then be reviewed by the Palomar College governing board. Neither an architect nor a contractor has been chosen yet; however, the board is reviewing a short list of names, Dowd says. Public education entities must meet requirements of the Division of State Architects. Further, if any buildings are financed by state capital outlay funds the college must meet requirements as defined by the State Chancellor’s office.
Public input is important to the progress of the development, says Dowd. Although few Fallbrook residents attended their July 23 “scoping” meeting, the third meeting with Fallbrook representatives, notices were sent to 26 organizations including the Fallbrook and Bonsall school districts, Fallbrook Library, Mission Resource Conservation District, the San Luis Rey Watershed Council and the Fallbrook Community Planning Group. Written comments can be faxed to Kelley Hudson-MacIsacc at (760)761-3506 or e-mailed to [email protected]