The county’s Planning Commission voted 7-0 January 8 to deny a proposed Pala subdivision which would have been called The Prominence at Pala.
The project would have subdivided 359 acres off Pala del Norte Road into 30 residential lots and two open space lots. The project was denied due to inadequate public facilities committed to serve the property and to non-compliance with the Land Use and
Public Facility Elements of the county’s General Plan.
The project site consists of five parcels, two of which currently have single-family residences. All of the parcels have A70 agricultural zoning which requires minimum four-acre lots, and the Multiple Rural Use (18) land use designation allows gross parcel sizes of four, eight, or 20 acres, depending on slope conditions.
Although all lots would have been at least four acres, the application requested clustering to allow for smaller lot sizes than under the General Plan, which under the Zoning Ordinance requires an administrative permit to use lot area averaging.
While the county’s Zoning Administrator approves projects requiring only an administrative permit (although such decisions can be appealed to the Planning Commission), the necessity of the Planning Commission to consider a project requiring a tentative map also left the administrative permit decision - and its ultimate denial along with the tentative map denial - to the Planning Commission.
Pala Del Norte Road is currently a dirt road with curves between State Route 76 and the site’s southern boundary, (approximately half a mile north of Highway 76), and significant turns through the property site. A 200 foot wide Metropolitan Water District
of Southern California aqueduct easement bisects the eastern portion of the property, and an existing open space easement has been recorded near the northeast portion of the site.
The elevation of the property ranges from 500 feet at its southern boundary to 1,715 feet at its northwest peak. More than 90 percent of the property supports steep slopes, and it is proposed for designation as a pre-approved mitigation area in the draft North County Multiple Species Conservation Program.
Vegetation on the site includes Diegan coastal sage scrub, mafic southern mixed chaparral, and coast live oak woodlands, and several ephemeral drainages and wetlands are also within the property boundaries.
The project proposed to utilize septic systems for sewer facilities and to obtain water from the Rainbow Municipal Water District, although a service letter from the Rainbow district had not been received by the county.
The property is within the San Diego County Regional Fire Authority boundaries and is served through a contract with the California Department of Fire and Forestry’s Rincon station, which is approximately 13 1/2 miles away. The travel time to the site from the Rincon fire station is more than 20 minutes, which exceeds the ten-minute maximum of the county’s General Plan. The lack of adequate water and fire facilities were among the reasons for the project’s denial.
It is possible that the property could be annexed into the North County Fire Protection District, whose nearest facility is approximately seven miles from the project site, but the travel time would likely be approximately 13 to 14 minutes from the NCFPD station and thus would still be out of compliance with the General Plan’s response time standards.
The county’s fire code and state fire regulations both stipulate a maximum length for dead-end access roads from the first opportunity to evacuate in two directions. The maximum allowable length is based on zoned lot size, and for parcels zoned for 1.0 to 4.99 acres the dead-end road segment cannot exceed 1,320 feet.
The first opportunity to evacuate in two directions would be at the intersection of Pala Del Norte Road and State Route 76, which is 1.7 miles or 8,850 feet from the northernmost proposed lot. While mitigation measures can cause a waiver to the distance limitation, no mitigation had been proposed and no fire protection plan had been submitted.
The reasons for denial also included inadequate progress by the applicant. The Prominence Partners submitted the application on June 16, 2003, and seven time extensions were granted during the 6 1/2-year processing period. The last full submittal was made on October 19, 2005, and the current submittal requirements were more than 44 months late with no significant effort to resolve major project issues.
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