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Weeks from a crucial vote on the Lilac Hills Ranch development north of Valley Center, County Supervisor Bill Horn is trying to find out whether he can even legally vote on it.

Horn owns 34 acres about a mile from the southern edge of the planned development. An environmentalist group has now seized on what VOSD first revealed – that Horn’s land will likely become much more valuable if the county allows the Lilac Hills Ranch developers to suburbanize 600 acres of rural farmland next door. Horn has received

Horn, who has thousands in campaign donations from the developer and whose former staffer is now its top lobbyist, is expected to support the project. If Horn does recuse himself, the project would have an even steeper hill to climb to gain approval.

Ocean Views vs. Affordable Housing

Solana Beach’s new planning director, Bill Chopyk, spent the last eight years working for the city of La Mesa. In a new Q-and-A with Voice of San Diego’s Maya Srikrishnan, Chopyk discusses one of the big differences between the two cities: ocean views – and all the complications that come with them.

Whereas La Mesa officials cannot consider how a project might affect a neighbor’s view, Solana Beach has an ordinance that actually requires the city to study whether new developments will impact existing residents’ views. The ordinance is part of what makes it so hard to build higher-density affordable housing in the pricey coastal city.

The Price of Water Independence

We’re beginning to get a sense of the cost of water from the Carlsbad desalination plant that will come online later this fall. The local Water Authority has said the average customer will see their water bill rise by $5 to $7 a month, but that’s just to start with.

The Vallecitos Water District — serving San Marcos and parts of Escondido, Carlsbad and Vista — will pay $2,400 per acre foot of desalinated water, compared with the $1,100 per acre foot it pays for water from other sources. Vallecitos is spending $1 million to soften the price hike for its customers in the first year, but it’s harder to predict how bills will look a few years from now.

Voice of San Diego’s Ry Rivard explores the many variables that influence how much more we’ll have to pay for water down the line.

Also in the News

• The Oceanside Unified School District’s Board of Trustees approved a petition to open a performing arts charter school on the site of the current Jefferson Middle School, despite worries from parents about neighborhood students being displaced. (Union-Tribune)

• Republican leaders across North County have formed a new political action committee called the North County Leadership Council. It raised $3,500 in the first half of this year and counts Encinitas Mayor Kristin Gaspar, Escondido Mayor Sam Abed, Carlsbad Mayor Matt Hall, Vista Mayor Judy Ritter, San Marcos Mayor Jim Desmond and Poway Mayor Steve Vaus as members of its board. Former Encinitas Mayor Jerome Stocks said the purpose of the group is to promote political and civic collaboration among North County cities. It’s a coincidence, Stocks said, that no Democrats have joined the group yet. (The Coast News)

• The Oceanside City Council cleared the way for the controversial Villa Storia development, which would bring 328 residences to some vacant land near Mission San Luis Rey. Elderly residents of a nearby mobile home park were the project’s most vocal opponents; they say emergency response times will suffer. Church leaders and parishioners at Mission San Luis Rey were among those supporting the project, praising the affordable housing it would bring to the area. (The Coast News)

• Thursday is the deadline for community activists to collect the 6,500 signatures that would force a voter referendum on a plan for a new shopping center on the banks of a Carlsbad lagoon. The group gathering signatures has spent $15,000 on the effort since the Carlsbad City Council unanimously approved the Caruso Affiliated plan last month. (Union-Tribune)

• Four months after Encinitas City Councilman Tony Kranz accepted a trip to Israel from the Jewish Federation of San Diego, he voted to allow offices on land owned by the Leichtag Foundation, which has close financial ties with the Jewish Federation. Former Encinitas Mayor Jerome Stocks filed a complaint with the state’s Fair Political Practices Commission, which concluded after a short investigation that Kranz’s vote did not violate conflict-of-interest laws. (The Coast News)

• The Escondido Police Department’s terrorism liaison officers have been teaching citizens how to spot suspicious activity, such as random dudes buying large quantities of fertilizer. The department handles “an average of four or five potentially terrorism-related investigations” every month. (Union-Tribune)

• The craft beer boom seems to be lifting Vista’s cultural status. Ever since breweries like Mother Earth, Iron Fist and Belching Beaver started attracting visitors to the city, downtown businesses have seen their business triple, according to a city staffer. One resident compared the vibe in Vista’s downtown to Hillcrest of 20 years ago. Others lament the loss of the rural charm of yesteryear. (San Diego Reader)

• The city of Encinitas won a $4.67 million grant to build a pedestrian crossing under the railroad tracks at El Portal Street. The new crossing would provide another option for bicyclists and pedestrians between the existing crossings at Leucadia Boulevard and Encinitas Boulevard. (Encinitas Advocate)

Jeremy Ogul

Jeremy Ogul is a freelance writer and editor in San Diego. Drop him a line at jsogul@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter...

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