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Cunningham to explore issues of Ocean Breeze Ranch offer to BUSD

 

Last updated 1/13/2017 at Noon



The Bonsall Unified School District held a Jan. 4 workshop focusing on an offer from Ocean Breeze Ranch, LLC, to sell the district a portion of the Ocean Breeze Ranch property near Sullivan Middle School.

The workshop did not include any voting items, but the school board requested that BUSD superintendent Justin Cunningham investigate issues related to the acquisition which could also include the sale of the district's Gird Road property currently being considered for a high school.

"What they wanted me to do is look at a couple of things," Cunningham said.

In September 2015, the Vessels family sold the 1,400-acre Vessels Ranch property which was renamed Ocean Breeze Ranch. The ownership of Ocean Breeze Ranch plans development of up to 400 single-family residences and some of the property will remain as an equestrian facility.

The property is adjacent to the Bonsall Unified School District campus which currently includes both Sullivan Middle School and Bonsall High School. Prior to the sale of the Vessels property the school district had an agreement with the Vessels family to allow access through the Vessels Ranch property west of the school for construction purposes, and after the ownership was transferred, Ocean Breeze Ranch agreed to provide a construction access easement in October 2015.

The Bonsall Unified School District currently plans to build a high school on a 50-acre site off of Gird Road. The Fallbrook Union High School District acquired that property in 1967 but never built a high school there, and when the K-8 Bonsall Union School District transitioned to the K-12 Bonsall Unified School District in 2014 the property was transferred to the Bonsall district.

Proposition DD, which would have authorized a $58 million general obligation bond for the Bonsall Unified School District and would have funded the new high school, failed to receive the necessary 55 percent of the vote for passage in the November 2016 election, although the school district

currently still plans to build the new high school on the Gird Road site.

The opposition to Proposition DD focused not only on taxation but also on the impacts to the Sycamore Ranch neighborhood if a high school was added to the area uses. Members of the Sycamore Ranch community approached Ocean Breeze Ranch management and inquired whether Ocean Breeze Ranch would be willing to provide a portion of the property for a potential high school site.

Ocean Breeze Ranch co-owner Zillah Reddam signed a Dec. 6 letter to Cunningham offering to discuss a mutually agreeable transaction in which the district might acquire land for a potential high school.

Reddam wasn't present at the Jan. 4 workshop at which Ocean Breeze Ranch representative Pete Fagrell addressed the school board and staff.

"Most of the time was spent in listening to Mr. Pete Fagrell," Cunningham said.

Cunningham will provide a response to Reddam's letter noting that the school district is interested in pursuing a potential acquisition of the property, and he will also explore issues regarding the potential sale of the land off Gird Road.

"There's a lot that has to be worked out," Cunningham said.

Reddam's letter noted that the portion which surrounds Sullivan Middle School is currently slated for 15 residential lots with minimum lot sizes of five acres.

"It's several five-acre lots that they have that sort of surround Sullivan," said Cunningham.

The total area of that portion is approximately 92 acres.

"In some ways it appeared to be a good situation for a school," said Cunningham. "There are a couple of things that we like it a lot for."

The site could improve traffic circulation for Sullivan Middle School as well as for the potential high school. "There's a serious problem for drop off and pick up at the Sullivan site," said Cunningham.

The 92-acre area would also allow for more recreational amenities than the 50-acre Gird Road site would.

"It would be nice to get some more regulation playing fields there," said Cunningham.

One of the caveats of that is that the school and recreational areas might not be directly accessible from each other.

"It's sort of a horseshoe around Sullivan," said Cunningham of the land. "It would have been difficult to put the high school there because of that."

The current plan is for the district to open the Gird Road site for the 2019-20 school year, although if environmental studies result in delays related to an Environmental Impact Report the school might not open until the 2020-21 school year. On Dec. 8, the BUSD board approved a contract with Hernandez Environmental Services to provide focused biological surveys at the Gird Road property.

Detailed plans and studies for a high school on the Ocean Breeze Ranch site would not start until the property is acquired, so the ownership transition period needs to be considered.

"Timing was a big part of it," Cunningham said. "We have to seriously think about what's going to happen to the student enrollment. We really had to look at the timing."

The Ocean Breeze Ranch homes will add to the BUSD student population, as will other planned development projects within the district boundaries.

"When the development really starts going on around here, you're going to see the population at Sullivan close to double," Cunningham said.

Although the Sycamore Ranch residents do not favor having the high school traffic on Gird Road, a high school near Sullivan would add high school traffic to the existing Sullivan and Bonsall Elementary School traffic.

"They're already bad," Cunningham said. "We've already got some serious traffic that is right here at Bonsall Elementary. It would be compounded if we put the high school there."

The district could possibly acquire some of the Ocean Breeze Ranch land for vehicular activity and recreational fields while still building the high school off of Gird Road.

"The district would be in a good position, I think, to help improve the Sullivan site," Cunningham said.

The county's general plan currently designates the Gird Road property for public use while that land has agricultural zoning. If the district plans to sell the Gird Road site for potential development, a buyer might insist on an option which would make the purchase of the property conditional upon county approval of a rezone and a general plan amendment.

"It's not an easy thing to get that property into a marketable situation," Cunningham said.

The final decision on a high school site will also incorporate transportation issues for students and parents who live closer to the outer area of the district.

"We have to make sure that we do the best thing for the district, the whole district," Cunningham said. "We do have to take into consideration the entire 88 square mile district."

 

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