A rendering of the planned Newland Sierra Town Center in North County.

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 to approved new language for March ballot measure on a proposed North County housing project.

The vote on Tuesday came in response to supporters of the Newland Sierra proposal who claimed the previous ballot language didn’t properly describe the project, County Counsel Thomas Montgomery said.

Montgomery said that during a closed session in August, supervisors discussed a potential lawsuit in connection with the Newland Sierra project. In another closed session in October, the board decided to discuss the ballot language in an open meeting, Montgomery added.

The ballot measure now reads: “Shall the San Diego County General Plan Amendment PDS2015-GPA-15-001 approved by the Board of Supervisors for the development of the Newland Sierra Project, be approved? The existing General Plan allows 99 homes and up to (2 million) square feet of commercial with open space.”

The General Plan amendment, according to the new ballot language, “would authorize up to 2,199 homes and 1,777,684 square feet of commercial. The approved Newland Sierra Project includes a planned community of 2,135 homes, a school site, 81,000 square feet of retail, 36 acres of parks and 1,209 acres of open space.”

The previous wording read, “Shall the San Diego County General Plan Amendment PDS2015-GPA-15-001, which amends the General Plan Land Use Element Map, Mobility Element, North County Metropolitan Subregional Plan, Bonsall Land Use Map and the I-15 Corridor Subregional Plan in conjunction with the Newland Sierra Project, be approved?”

Supervisors Greg Cox, Jim Desmond and Kristin Gaspar voted in favor of the wording change, while Nathan Fletcher and Dianne Jacob were opposed.

Cox said it was important for residents to fully understand what they’re voting on. He added the previous ballot language was too bureaucratic.

Fletcher agreed that the previous ballot wording was clunky, but no one had a problem with it until Tuesday.

Before voting, supervisors heard from dozens of residents, most of whom were opposed to changing the ballot language.

Newland Communities wants to build Newland Sierra in the Merriam Mountains, directly west of Interstate 15 and near Escondido, San Marcos and Vista.

Proponents say the project is needed for more housing options in a fast-growing region. Opponents argue the project will damage critical wildlife habitat and is unwise, considering the lack of water resources and wildfire dangers.

In December, the board voted 4-0 to place Newland Sierra on the March 3, 2020, ballot after opponents collected roughly 117,000 signatures of North County residents who didn’t want the project to proceed.

— City News Service

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.