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People power: Vista council gets an earful over apartment plan, opts to delay

Exercising a right to protest, many Vista residents did.
Exercising a right to protest, many Vista residents did.
Carla Miles

Twenty-nine speakers, mostly homeowners, addressed the Vista City Council last night over the plan to build an upscale 114-unit apartment complex on a 4.5 acre site in their neighborhood, and the effort seemed to convince Vista City Council members to delay the project until all concerns are addressed.

Right off the bat, Councilmember Amanda Rigby announced that she was the one who appealed the the decision of the Planning Commission which is comprised currently of the following commissioners: Debra Cramer (Chairman), Michael Carroll, Rick Rosaler (Vice Chairman) Tom Fleming, Andrew Valdez, Garry Garretson, Ramon Sanchez (Student Commissioner) and Stephanie Jackel.

Mea culpa

"I am the one who appealed it to the City Council in case you didn't know," Rigby said, which brought quite a loud, approving response from many in the crowd who came for just this one agenda item.

The appeal, according to John Conley, Vista's Director of Community Development & Engineering, was made after the Planning Commission's decision on May 20. "This is an appeal of a site development plan for the Santa Fe Vista Apartments and the applicant Tim Winslow," Conley began. He continued with a rundown of the 114-multiple family apartment project on the property located at the southwest corner of S. South Santa Fe and Mar Vista, including this:

"The project was a mix of 1-2-and 3 bedroom apartment units, about 2,000 square feet of recreation building, pool, and outdoor seating area, 205 onsite parking spaces, including a combination of garage, carports and uncovered spaces, and five affordable units of the 114."

There will be seven, three-story apartment buildings, which was a point bothering one long time resident and speaker, who saw this as a loss of privacy for him in his own backyard.

Others were upset at the ineffective notification, which was done by-the-book: those located within 500 feet of the project were made aware. A sign was posted on the property location as well, although many complained it was too small.

'We are interested in being good stewards'

Chris Earl, speaking on behalf of Tim Winslow the project applicant, stated this:

"We believe [the project] will benefit the local community and the city." He then said:

"I just want to say that it obviously appears there is a lot of interest in this parcel.... I understand. I also want to make clear ... that we are experienced developers. We are interested in being good stewards of the land, good neighbors and members of the city. Uh, we worked closely with city staff for over a year, that's since I've been involved, and Mr. Winslow worked with them longer than that. It is a conforming development ...."

He added that there were opportunities to speak with those who voiced objections. "We did go through many community outreach efforts, suggested by staff." He further believes, he said, that the projected community will "provide an economic benefit to the city" and the residents will provide support for existing businesses in Vista.

Bret Schanzenbach, the Chief Executive Officer at Vista Chamber of Commerce, came out in support of the proposed plan to build the 114-unit complex. Cliff Kaiser, President for Vista Village Business Association, however, differed on the plan proposed, saying it would be "a travesty" not to reconsider community comments about the area, which he said was the "premiere gem" for the city of Vista.

August 26

After comments from public, council members spoke. Those comments included Rigby's points about the high-density impact, the design and one constituent's worry over evacuation of so many in a disaster situation such as the recent fires experienced locally. Mayor Judy Ritter, a realtor, said she always asks herself 'what if I wanted to live here?' This caused her concerns over the actual design and she questioned the details. Whether people would want to walk so far from their cars, perhaps carrying groceries, if they were not allowed parking spaces near their homes. The issue of safety for renters was brought up as well. (Apparently security people will be hired to provide an eye out for crime and keep renters safeguarded.)

City Attorney Darold Pieper seemed to absorb all the concerns and then proposed council consider a postponement of the vote until August 26th. Council approved the idea, as it would seem to allow more time to work through the additional items brought up from all concerned.

Perhaps he was also mindful of the fact that the threat of a potential court challenge to the project might occur later, as the CityofVista notice stated simply:

"Note: If you challenge this project in court, you may be limited to raising only those issues you or someone else raised at the public hearing described in this notice, or in written correspondence delivered to the City of Vista at, or prior to, the public hearing."

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