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De Luz oversight nixed by planning group

 

Last updated 5/22/2008 at Noon



Concerns raised by all sides prompted Fallbrook Community Planning Group members to decide not to take an oversight role in rural, rugged De Luz.

The unanimous vote to recommend that the planning group’s jurisdiction not be expanded ended months of study, doubts and concerns. The debate seemed easy to resolve in the end, as many De Luz residents indicated they want to remain independent and several planning group members said they are satisfied with the status quo.

“I have never supported the idea of De Luz coming under the Fallbrook planning group,” Jim Russell, chairman of the 15-member elected panel that advises San Diego County supervisors on regional issues, said as the discussion wound down. “I can tell you I don’t think it’s a good idea and I never planned on voting for it.”

Several other members echoed similar misgivings, some saying they lacked enough knowledge about De Luz to make key planning, circulation and recreation recommendations.

“I don’t know the De Luz area at all and I don’t think I’d be able to help them in any way, shape or form,” commented group member Ike Perez.

The 40-minute discussion attracted about 85 people to Live Oak Elementary School and followed an April 21 presentation on the possible annexation. At the previous meeting, concerns seemed to ease among many De Luz residents and a merger appeared to be in the offing.

Opposition swelled, however, at a recent meeting in De Luz that attracted more than 80 people. Many people there complained that coming under the planning group’s jurisdiction would simply add “another layer of bureaucracy” if they wanted to build a home, remodel or improve their property in other ways.

At the prompting of a De Luz representative, about 50 people stood to express their opposition to the annexation plan.

Such a response, as well as a petition that netted even more signatures, sends a strong signal that De Luz residents want to “keep it the way it is,” said James Prestininzi, a Fallbrook attorney who assisted residents there.

At the request of Suki Glenn, a 20-year resident of De Luz, six audience members stood in support of the oversight group annexing their 21-square-mile area that flanks Fallbrook’s northern boundary.

Last month, Russell said county officials, as part of an ongoing general plan update, asked the Fallbrook group to decide whether to bring De Luz under its wing. Unincorporated communities throughout the county are divided into 27 distinct areas with De Luz possibly the only one that does not have a planning group or sponsor group, according to a county analysis.

If the annexation plan had proceeded, the union would have occurred after the new general plan is adopted, possibly in 2010. That would have allowed De Luz residents to seek election to the Fallbrook planning group, where members serve four-year terms.

Split between two jurisdictions, De Luz residents who live in Riverside County must typically travel about 60 miles north to comment on development plans and other proposals in their area. De Luz residents who live in San Diego County must travel an equal distance to Kearney Mesa to review development documents or attend Planning Commission meetings.

In Fallbrook, the group holds meetings on key community issues as a prelude to formal public hearings held by San Diego County planning commissioners and supervisors. That gives Fallbrook-area residents closer review and input on local issues within the planning group’s approximately 50-square-mile jurisdiction.

Given the sentiment of many De Luz residents and the subsequent vote, Russell suggested that community leaders press the county to form a planning group of their own. An initial county reluctance to do so might wilt under a barrage of requests from residents, he said.

“Now’s as good a time as any to approach them on that,” he said.

An initial critic of the annexation, Mike Manchor, did not speak during Monday’s meeting.

Manchor, chief of the volunteer De Luz Fire Department, wrote a sharp-edged letter prior to the first planning group meeting but then seemed to waver as key points were raised during that session.

“I could have gone either way the last time,” Manchor, an avocado farmer and 18-year resident of the hilly area split by two counties, said following Monday night’s vote. He said the recent De Luz forum helped galvanize his qualms and those shared by other residents.

“People in De Luz, it’s a different crowd out there,” Manchor said as he climbed into his pickup for the drive home.

 

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