Carlsbad strawberry farm. Photo courtesy of Caruso Affiliated

Opponents of a planned upscale retail and dining center that would overlook the Agua Hedionda Lagoon in Carlsbad turned in more than 9,100 petition signatures Thursday in a bid to put the project before voters.

The plan by Los Angeles open-air shopping mall developer Caruso Affiliated would preserve 85 percent of about 203 acres of open space near Interstate 5 and Cannon Road. Much of the property has been used for decades to grow strawberries.

The company contends the project will maintain most of the open space and allow the popular farming operation to continue. The development plans have already been approved by the Carlsbad City Council.

However, a group called Citizens for North County formed to oppose the Caruso project, and has received backing from the Sierra Club of San Diego, League of Women Voters and local chapter of the Surfrider Foundation, among other organizations.

The group opposes the council’s approval of the project, which allowed it to bypass the normal environmental review. Members of the group want the project to go before the city’s voters.

State law requires a referendum to have valid signatures from 10 percent of a locality’s registered voters to force action by the City Council. In Carlsbad’s case, that’s over 6,000 signatures, according to data from the San Diego County Registrar of Voters.

If enough signatures are deemed valid, the City Council will have to decide whether to call an election for sometime next year.

— City News Service

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