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Commission votes to circulate mitigated declaration

May 15, 2002|By AARON CLAVERIE

Staff Writer

CALEXICO — The city Planning Commission voted unanimously Monday to circulate a mitigated negative declaration for the proposed La Jolla Palms subdivision despite concerns about how the construction of 450 or so houses could affect the city's ability to provide services such as police and fire protection.

"Circulating a mitigated negative declaration" means the Planning Department will send Imperial County and state agencies a document that explains how the Schaefer Family Trust will build 457 homes just east of Wal-Mart on 155 acres of farmland without paying for a focused environmental impact review of the project, which would cost $50,000, or a full environmental impact review, which would cost around $200,000.

The declaration will mention the Planning Commission could vote to recommend approving a mitigated negative declaration at a future meeting. The City Council will have the final say after that. The affected agencies have 30 days to respond to the declaration.

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An environmental review is an independent analysis of a project's potential impact on the city and surrounding land, conducted by engineers at the expense of the developers.

Developers of the proposed Calexico International Center at the corner of Jasper Road and Highway 111 paid for a full review. The Bravo Partners and the Rodiles family did not pay for a review of the proposed houses, RV park and an industrial park they plan to build on land near Cole and Bowker roads.

Before the vote, Brian Mooney, a San Diego-based planner who advises the city of Calexico, told the Planning Commission that there were a number of pressing concerns that needed to be addressed before the commission makes its final decision on whether to require an environmental review. That decision will be made at a public hearing following the 30-day circulation period.

Mooney said the traffic study conducted was "not a typical type of traffic study that we're used to seeing." He said the study is incomplete.

Mooney said rough initial estimates have the homes on Cole Road creating 18,881 trips per day. He said the study does not address how those trips will be handled or the effect those trips will have on surrounding streets.

Already Cole Road is packed with truckers, shoppers and residents of homes off of Meadows Avenue. Mooney said there was no detail in the study as to how Cole Road would be expanded to handle all the traffic.

Mooney said the city's Public Works Department has taken the lead on the Cole Road project.

Regarding the potential for financial impacts associated with the project, Mooney told the commission he had not seen the fiscal analysis but had been told by someone who has that the city would suffer "minimal impacts."

Commissioner Richard Romero couldn't believe 450 new homes would have a minimal impact. He noted that the projections he has seen focus on revenue created by the project when it is built out.

The project is planned in phases, with the first phases consisting of housing and the last phases consisting of commercial space.

Romero said since commercial space produces more tax revenue, the impact to the city would be greater during the first few years of development when no money is coming in from commercial spaces. He said there is no analysis as to how the city would be affected if those commercial spaces aren't built or fail.

Mooney agreed with Romero's concerns and said that is an example of the comments that needed to be addressed.

Frank Schaefer of the family trust told the commission he's planning to build a high-quality project. Moments before the commission voted, Schaefer said it would be unfair to for the city to require an environmental review when the Bravo Partners and Rodiles family didn't have to pay for one.

The commission voted to approve circulating the mitigated negative declaration. It could still decide to require the family trust to conduct an environmental impact review at the upcoming public hearing.

>> Staff Writer Aaron Claverie can be reached at 337-3419 or aclaverie@aol.com

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