With county supervisors and the building industry still split on how to react to the countywide slow-growth initiative, backers of the controversial measure said Friday that they will file more than enough signatures by Tuesday's deadline to place their measure on the countywide ballot in June--assuming a big, final push succeeds this weekend.
There was last-minute confusion Friday, both among county officials who have criticized the initiative and among initiative proponents.
Officials from the county's Environmental Management Agency told some supervisors and their staffs that the board may be legally bound to revise pending agreements with developers and include new growth controls in them. The agreements, partly aimed at getting around the slow-growth initiative, would require developers to pay for roads and other public facilities before their new housing projects are completed.
Many of the developer agreements, which authorize construction of more than 50,000 new residential units, are on Wednesday's board agenda.
The agreements may have been jeopardized, county government sources said, because Supervisor Gaddi H. Vasquez and board Chairman Harriett M. Wieder each proposed separate traffic and growth-control measures before the developer agreements have been approved by the board. It would be difficult to justify approving the agreements and then subjecting other projects to stiffer growth controls later, sources close to the board said.
Vasquez's proposal--developed mostly by county EMA staff members--would cap new development at 1.9% annually. Wieder's, modeled after a similar ordinance adopted in 1986 by the Carlsbad City Council, would set limits on residential units based on dividing the county into small planning sections, where commercial development would be regulated by determining how much tax revenue is needed to pay for new roads and other public facilities in each section.
"The developers will scream bloody murder about that," said an aide to one county supervisor, referring to the potential insertion of growth-control language in the developer agreements.
County Supervisor Thomas F. Riley was both puzzled and disturbed by the week's events.
"I'm just not sure where everything is coming from," Riley said. "I wish we had not tried anything in the press until after next Tuesday (the deadline for filing initiative signatures). The (news) reporting gives the impression that there is a panic, back-room thing. It's not true, but it's the impression.
"I have some very strong feelings that the county Board of Supervisors will have some kind of plan. I'm not sure whether it will take the form of an ordinance or whether it will take the form of a ballot measure."
Riley said the Vasquez plan he saw was conceptual and "not appropriate for public discussion. Then all of the sudden I saw it in the paper."
"Mrs. Wieder did not talk to me about the plan she announced. I had one of my staff members check the Carlsbad plan, and I understand it was just a nightmare in administrative efforts."
But confusion was also the rule of the day among the advocates of the slow-growth initiative, a proposed ballot measure that would condition future growth on the ability of local roads and public facilities to handle increased traffic and larger workloads.
Although initiative supporters said a strong weekend signature-gathering effort would give them at least 75,000 signatures (about 66,000 are needed) to place their measure on the countywide ballot in June, campaign treasurer Greg Hile and other slow-growth activists met with Irvine builder Mike Ray late Thursday night in a last-ditch effort to discuss potential compromises, according to key initiative supporter Tom Rogers of San Juan Capistrano.
Hile denied attending such a meeting, but Rogers said Hile had "confessed" to him Friday that he had indeed participated in the late-night session.
Only three weeks ago Rogers was strongly criticized by other slow-growth activists for meeting with county supervisors in a bid to start negotiations about a possible compromise that would cancel the initiative drive.
"This is the craziest thing I've seen in the campaign," Rogers said of Hile's actions. "Greg's our treasurer, for God's sake, but he wants to make a deal. I chewed him out royally."
Hile gave conflicting accounts this week about why the initiative campaign's financial disclosure report was not filed with Registrar of Voters Don Tanney's office, and both Rogers and Russell Burkett, a key initiative supporter, said Hile would have to pay any fines levied for missing last Monday's deadline. First Hile said he was typing the report, then he said he had put it in the mail, and then he told reporters he had sent it out to be typed and it had not come back.
Then Hile irked slow-growth advocates when he revealed he would be on a business trip in Massachusetts on Tuesday, the deadline for filing signatures at the registrar's office.