Adoption of a controversial proposal to encourage dense residential development in the Encinitas Boulevard area of Encinitas was delayed Wednesday by a divided Board of Supervisors, but it was only a temporary reprieve for local residents who turned out en masse to oppose the plan.
The board's 3-2 vote to delay the general plan amendment, which had been passed by the Planning Commission despite a recommendation by the county staff that it be rejected, resulted only because a traffic circulation study of the Encinitas Boulevard environs likely will not be published until November.
General plan amendments are, in essence, blueprints for a community's future. The proposal before the board Wednesday would have allowed construction of up to 2,800 residential units in the area.
Supervisors Paul Eckert and Brian Bilbray argued that the amendment should be passed immediately regardless of the status of the traffic study because continued development in the booming North County community is inevitable.
And even Supervisors Leon Williams, Susan Golding and George Bailey agreed with that prediction, saying they opposed passage of the plan change at this time only because they thought they could more effectively weigh the nuances of the issue after the traffic study is complete.
Much of the local opposition has stressed the traffic problems that additional development in the area might create. Golding, in casting the deciding vote to delay the amendment after hearing statements from her four colleagues, said she hoped the study could be completed as soon as possible.
"I have to agree that this is an obvious area for in-filling (additional construction)," Golding said. "I do, and will continue to support that concept. But I think we can wait to take a definite, final action until the traffic studies have been completed."
Bilbray disagreed, however, saying the supervisors "might as well say up front that it is a given that there will be dense development in this area. There's no doubt in my mind that will happen. This is a unique situation in the county--an island of undeveloped land surrounded by growth areas that have a tremendous economic potential.
"If there is anyplace where density should be increased, this is it. I know a lot of the local residents wish they could turn back the clock on the dynamics of the area that created this situation, but that's impossible. If there's anyplace where more density should be encouraged, this is it."
"But what's the hurry?" Supervisor George Bailey asked. "There is no urgency for pushing this through today. It would be far more appropriate to have a community review, even if this kind of development is eventually going to occur in some form or another."
Bob Dunn joined the dozens of San Dieguito-area residents who spoke in opposition to the amendment. "The cancer of traffic has already spread throughout our area," he said. Dunn also reminded the supervisors that a recent public hearing in Encinitas attracted 90 opponents of the plan and only three supporters.
Larry Mann said Encinitas residents are being "driven from their homes by major land use changes of this nature. Encinitas Boulevard is already too congested as it is."
Potential developers argued, however, that the traffic problems could be solved. Greg Shaw said the land adjacent to Interstate 5 "offers quick and easy access to the freeway, and services within walking distance of the residents who will live there as well."