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BUSD to recirculate EIR for high school site

The draft Environmental Impact Report for the proposed high school on Gird Road will be recirculated.

The Bonsall Unified School District board voted 5-0, Sept. 13, to approve additional technical studies, to amend the associated consultant contracts and to recirculate the revised draft EIR for a second public review.

“We’re basically building our defense right now,” superintendent David Jones said.

In May 2017, the district board voted 5-0 to authorize Environmental Science Associates to produce an EIR. Previously completed technical studies had included a Phase 1 environmental site assessment, an environmental hazards evaluation, a biological resources assessment, a preliminary geohazard and geotechnical report and a traffic report. All of the California Environmental Quality Act categories included findings of less than significant impact, so the initial plan was to prepare a Mitigated Negative Declaration.

Both an EIR and an MND include a public review and comment process, and an opponent of a project has the right to file a lawsuit claiming that an MND is inadequate and an EIR is required, so the school board chose to prepare an EIR in anticipation of the opposition filing suit that an MND was inadequate.

The EIR also allowed the district to address Luiseno and other cultural or archeological resources. An EIR can also be used as the basis for another project on the site if the school district chooses another location for the high school, which provides assurances for potential purchasers of the Gird Road site who desire to build housing. If the school district builds housing on the site before selling the lots the development would be subject to CEQA review but not to county zoning restrictions.

CEQA requires responses to each comment received from the public including another public agency. Although a lead agency can certify an EIR with those responses, the EIR could still be challenged in court. The 11 public comments convinced district staff that more detail was needed on some of the elements.

“We are then in turn required to do additional studies based on their comments,” Jones said. “That forced us to go out and do additional studies.”

Three additional studies will be undertaken.

“One’s an additional study, the others are to strengthen the existing studies,” Jones said.

Although the North County Fire Protection District was satisfied with the plan, a more extensive study will determine whether emergency access meets standards. The consultant contract with Dudek was amended to fund an additional $19,505 for the enhanced fire protection plan. An additional $8,000 will be paid to Kunzman Associates for a new traffic study which will include a signal analysis.

Comments regarding non-native grasslands led to the amendment to the contract with Hernandez Environmental Services for additional analysis of the impact or lack thereof.

The non-native grassland may or may not be environmentally important to the area.

“Hernandez said that’s not a significant impact at all,” Jones said. “That usually comes in from development. Even the golf course is non-native grassland.”

The Gird Road site is adjacent to the Golf Club of California course.

Hernandez will be paid $5,000 for the study on whether or not the impacts to non-native grassland will have environmental implications.

“They’re going to find out whether or not that is significant,” Jones said. “They have to do a study to prove that or disprove that.”

The amendments add $31,000 to the ESA contract to compile the new technical studies and incorporate those into the EIR. Best Best and Krieger, which is the district’s legal counsel, will receive another $40,000 to review the new technical studies and the revised EIR.

“They’ll have to review all the studies,” Jones said. “That’s quite an expense.”

The contract amendments add $103,905 to the cost of the EIR not including district staff time.

“It’s forcing us to spend more money even though it might not be required or necessary,” Jones said.

The preparation of the revised EIR will be followed by a 45-day public review period.

“The team is hoping to get it out the first week of October,” Jones said.

“I look forward to reading it,” Teresa Platt of Save Gird Valley said.

Platt would like a longer public review period.

“It’s an extensive document,” Platt said. “Forty-five days is very, very short, especially when you’ve got an election in the middle and a Thanksgiving holiday. I would hope that out of courtesy to the community they would extend the comment period.”

Unless the public review period is extended or the additional comments force a longer response period, the revised EIR will return to the board in early 2019 for certification.

In the absence of funding or environmental constraints, the high school on Gird Road is slated to be open for the 2022-2023 school year. The EIR indicates that approximately 40 acres of the 50-acre site are usable, so soccer, baseball and softball fields could be built before the school opens.

“You could phase it out so you could practice there,” Jones said.

Author Bio

Joe Naiman, Writer

Joe Naiman has been writing for the Village News since 2001


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