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Less than 24 hours after announcing he’d recuse himself from voting on a massive housing project near property he owns in Valley Center, County Supervisor Bill Horn said he’s not ready to step aside after all.
He’s asking the state agency that determined he has a conflict of interest and shouldn’t vote on the project to reconsider its opinion.
“Based on advice I received yesterday from the Fair Political Practices Commission, I will remain a non-participant with regard to the Lilac Hills Ranch project,” Horn said in a statement. “However, I am requesting a reconsideration of their decision and will also seek clarified guidelines as to when I can and cannot vote on land use items within my district.”
The state agency says it would be happy to give him new advice, if he has any new facts or evidence he hasn’t already shared.
In a Board of Supervisors meeting early Wednesday, Horn said he would appeal the ruling from the FPCC, a watchdog agency that said he shouldn’t vote on the Lilac Hills Ranch development because there was a reasonable chance he’d stand to financially benefit from the project’s approval.
Following afternoon meetings between Horn and county legal counsel, a county spokesman confirmed the county would support Horn’s request for reconsideration.
“The October 13th FPPC opinion letter, as written, raises several questions regarding future land use issues,” the spokesman wrote in an email. “Clarity is needed to ensure no voters in any of the five county districts are disenfranchised by the new FPPC rules.”
Lilac Hills Ranch is a sprawling development that would replace 600 acres of mostly rural land with 1,700 homes and supporting amenities like a school and park space. Current development restrictions would only allow the construction of about 100 homes, so the project has to seek special permission from the county.
It was scheduled to go before the board for a final vote on Oct. 28. That vote has been delayed as the county waits on its request that the FPPC reconsider its legal opinion.
A spokesman for the FPPC, however, said there isn’t a formal process for the reconsideration Horn’s requesting.
“That is not likely to produce a new result,” said Jay Wierenga, communications director for the FPPC. “The advice letter was based on facts provided by Horn. Short of any new facts or information, what would cause a change of opinion?”
The FPPC determined Lilac Hills would change the character of the surrounding area to such an extent that nearby property – like the over 30 acres Horn owns, on which he grows avocados, oranges and tangelos that he sells in bulk – would increase in value because it would become more viable as a subsequent development opportunity once the full project was completed.
Wierenga said the letter did not constitute a new rule, interpretation or precedent that should govern land use decisions in the future. It was merely a determination that Horn, based on the FPPC’s existing conflict of interest guidelines, would stand to personally benefit from his vote on the project.
On Tuesday, Horn said that determination threatened to undo the fabric of America.
“I will abstain with great trepidation and grave concern over the chipping away at the foundation of what we as Americans believe,” he said.
But Wierenga said this is all pretty simple. If Horn can present the agency with any new facts, its legal team would be happy to give him a new legal opinion.
“We’re not Stalin here,” he said. “We aren’t saying go to the gulag. If you have new facts and think they’d lead to a new determination, then we’ll consider that. But just saying, ‘We don’t like your opinion and we’d like you to change it’ – no. The whole term ‘reconsideration’ has no legal standing here.”