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Harrington named to I-15 Corridor Design Review Board

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors voted 5-0 February 24 to seat Thomas Harrington on the I-15 Corridor Design Review Board.

“I’m looking forward to working with the group and seeing what can be done,” Harrington said.

Harrington replaces Jim Oenning as the Fallbrook Community Planning Group’s representative on the I-15 Corridor Design Review Board. Oenning was appointed to the board in July 2007, replacing Eileen Delaney as the Fallbrook representative, but in

November 2008, Oenning was not re-elected to a second term on the planning group. The term for the design review board seat expires on February 24, 2011.

The I-15 Corridor Design Review Board consists of representatives from six different planning and sponsor groups along the I-15 area in North County along with an at-large member. The Fallbrook, Rainbow, and Valley Center planning groups and the Bonsall, Hidden Meadows, and Twin Oaks sponsor groups have representatives recommended by their planning or sponsor group, although the appointments must be confirmed by the Board of Supervisors.

The I-15 Corridor Design Review Board was created to preserve the visual aesthetics of the corridor, and if the County of San Diego believes that a proposed project may impact the visual aesthetics of the I-15 corridor that project is sent to the design review board for input. In addition to structures, signs are also subject to I-15 Corridor Design Review Board input.

The I-15 Corridor Design Review Board only addresses aesthetics and does not address issues such as traffic or environmental impacts, and the board thus debates aspects of specific projects rather than the projects themselves. The design review board works with developers to ensure that there are no aesthetic objections.

Harrington’s job with the County of San Diego provides him with experience in at least two ways. He is a senior land surveyor for the county; much of his work involves researching easement acquisition records. “I think that understanding of land and easement issues help,” he said.

Harrington’s commute from Morro Hills to the County Operations Center in San Diego provides almost daily experience with Interstate 15. “It’s got a lot of natural beauty there,” he said. “Hopefully we’ll be able to maintain some of that.”

Other than his four years with the Navy Seabees, the 59-year-old Harrington has lived in North County for his entire life. “I’ve seen a lot of change come about in North County,” he said.

That change includes the transition from U.S. Highway 395 to Interstate 15. “It was amazing when the 15 went through how it changed the situation,” he said.

Harrington’s family was living in Oceanside when he was born, and his father was a realtor in Oceanside. The family moved to San Marcos in 1957. “It’s a very different community,” he said of San Marcos now compared to when he was growing up. “There wasn’t much there then.”

Harrington worked on survey crews after his graduation from high school and took surveying classes at Palomar College. He was an engineering aide in the Navy and was oversees during much of his service time between 1970 and 1974. After his discharge he returned to San Diego County and obtained a position with the City of San Marcos.

Harrington took a break from local government to work in the private sector, spending 13 years with Rick Engineering and two years with RBF Consulting before joining the City of San Diego as a land surveyor in 2000. In 2002 he obtained his present position with the county.

As an adult he lived in Oceanside, Carlsbad, and Vista before moving from Vista to Fallbrook two decades ago. He and his wife purchased their Morro Hills home when it was being constructed.

“It was a lot like San Marcos when I was growing up as a kid,” he said of moving to Fallbrook.

Harrington and his wife had two small children when the family relocated to Fallbrook. “It seems like a good place to raise a family,” he said. “I think it provides an excellent education for the people who utilize it.”

Harrington’s wife is a teacher at Frazier Elementary School and previously taught at Fallbrook Street School. Their two children both graduated from Fallbrook High School; Thomas Harrington Jr. is now a paramedic with the North County Fire Protection District and Audrey Harrington is completing her Master’s degree at Chico State University.

The I-15 Corridor Design Review Board becomes the third public agency board on which Harrington sits. He is also on the board of the Morro Hills Community Services District and initially joined that board in the 1990s, although his service has not been continuous. In November 2006 he was elected to a four-year term on the Fallbrook Community Planning Group board.

“It’s been real enlightening to be on the Fallbrook planning group and participate in their input to DPLU,” Harrington said.

“I wanted to get involved in the community a little bit more,” he said of seeking the position on the community planning group. “It just seemed like the community was dealing with some larger problems.”

Harrington’s job as a land surveyor includes road easement vacations which are often explained to community planning groups before such vacation proposals are brought to the Board of Supervisors. “I felt I could have an opportunity to at least enlighten the group on some details,” he said.

“I think I managed to do this a little bit in Fallbrook,” Harrington said. “I think I’ve been able to help them a little bit and clarify some issues.”

Harrington recognizes the rights of property owners, including their right to develop that property, but notes that such development should be within the guidelines of community plans.

The Fallbrook Community Planning Group has been involved with several proposals involving the Interstate 15 corridor. “I think it’s important for all of these North County communities that we keep an eye on it,” Harrington said.

Some of those are near the intersection of Interstate 15 and State Route 76. “There’s a lot of change that’s going to happen with the 76 being widened as well,” he said.

Harrington realizes that growth will occur and hopes that the work of the I-15 Corridor Design Review Board will help address the community’s concerns. “I think this will end up being a very interesting period of development in this community,” he said. “I enjoy working with the community and seeing Fallbrook develop. I think this is a real crucial time for where Fallbrook goes.”

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