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Planning Group balks at removal of VC Road median


March 12, 2014
Portions of the landscaped median on Valley Center Road may soon be destroyed to make way for additional turning lanes in the South Village.

As part of the conditions for the proposed Butterfield Ranch Development, the San Diego County Department of Public Works has planned the destruction of 650 ft of the median on Valley Center Road south of Sunday Drive, according to Steve Hutchison, secretary for the Valley Center Community Planning Group (VCCPG).

The move came as a shock to members of the VCCPG, who were not notified or included in the discussion of the median conditions. At their regular meeting on Monday evening, the Planning Group approved the following language to be sent to Mark Wardlaw, director of Planning and Development Services for the county:

"Our Community Plan includes a landscaped median on VC Road from Woods Valley to Vesper Road. The current median contains multiple opportunities for entering and exiting, U-turns, and large truck deliveries. The median has effectively calmed traffic and serves as a unifying element of the community. Our goal is to add more landscaped median to further enhance the safety and beauty of our community. To remove what we currently have does not meet our community goals."

The letter concludes with a plea to meet with the county to avoid such a drastic change.

In an email to The Valley Roadrunner, Hutchison added that he is "dumbfounded by the news" and deplored the fact that the median conditions were not indicated in the original project that the VCCPG recommended to approve.

Also at the meeting, representatives from San Diego Gas & Electric and Independent Energy Solutions (IES) spoke about their proposal for a 4.75 acre solar farm near the fork of Valley Center and Vesper roads, adjacent to the existing substation at 29560 Valley Center Road. The farm would produce approximately one megawatt of energy.

"That's enough renewable energy to power about 200 homes," said Ian Stewart, regional public affairs manager for SDG&E.

Plans for the site have yet to be finalized or submitted to the county, but Jay Miller, vice president of operations for IES believed construction could start as earlier as a year from now.

The Planning Group was unable to make a recommendation because the item was accidentally listed as "informational" on the agenda, but Chairman Oliver Smith raised concerns about the aesthetics of yet another solar farm in a highly-visible part of town.

"I'm trying not to have Valley Center turn into downtown Baghdad," Smith said regarding the possibility of barbed wire atop a chain link fence around the farm. He proposed the possibility of a taller fence without barbed wire or slats to shield the view.

LaVonne Norwood, VCCPG member, shared Smith's concerns about aesthetics, as well as the possibility of more solar facilities going in along Valley Center Road.

"Would you want to run down that road every single day and see two or three or four solar farms one right after the other?" asked Norwood. Stewart reassured her that the existing substation does not have the capacity to sustain much more solar development, but there is still the possibility the substation could be expanded.

"I would prefer it was somewhere else," said Michael Curley, whose property sits adjacent to the proposed facility. "How many thousands, or hundreds at least, people are going to have to look at that every day as they turn into that bend on Valley Center Road?"

Stewart said SDG&E will be submitting their proposal to the county in April, and the Planning Group will likely revisit the project to make a recommendation at their May or June meeting.

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