Carmel Valley planning board votes against Via de la Valle widening project

By Karen Billing

The Carmel Valley Community Planning Board decided to take a stand against the Via de la Valle widening, voting 9-2 against the project as proposed at its Sept. 26 meeting.

The widening of Via de la Valle from two to four lanes from San Andres to El Camino Real is a project about 10 years in the making.

“I’m going to support the motion even though I was part of the task force that championed that road,” said Frisco White, planning board chair.

White said he had never been in favor of a four-lane road, but worked with the task force years ago to get the road as narrow as possible through the sensitive riverpark area. In light of the concerns expressed by Del Mar Horsepark users and businesses adjacent to the road, he decided to support the motion to recommend rejection of the project as it stands.

The planning board’s vote is advisory and the project is next expected to go before the city planning commission by November or December. Proponents and opponents of the widening will have the opportunity to have their voices heard at the commission level.  Should it be approved, the road would be about two years away from the beginning of construction, with a year tagged for Coastal Commission approvals and a year on engineering.

The Sept. 26 motion was met with applause from a number of horsepark supporters in the audience.

The sole dissenting votes on the board were by members Manjeet Ranu and Steven Ross.

“To try and redesign it again, I think it would be somewhat disingenuous to the process,” Ranu said. “It has been a substantial process. [Developer] Black Mountain Ranch [LLC] and the city have been responsive and I’m not sure anymore analysis paralysis is going to get us results.”

While she voted in favor of denying the widening, board member Anne Harvey agreed that the developer, city and neighbors have a very long history on this project.

“These guys have tried so hard to please us, for us to say now ‘Nah we don’t like it’ sets a bad precedent,” Harvey said.

White said although it is true that they have spent a lot of time on the project, the issues with the horsepark are only coming to the forefront now.  The developers had been working with the landowners — the 22nd District Agricultural Association — but they hadn’t worked with the trainers who lease and work at the park.

The Carmel Valley planning  board last saw the widening project at its Aug. 22 meeting, but with a quorum of only nine of the group’s 16 members present, the planning board could not get a passing motion.

The project has been in the works since 2003, and was initially submitted to the city in 2005. Dale Greenhalgh, of developer Black Mountain Ranch LLC, said he has been before the Carmel Valley board five times over the last 10 years.

Carmel Valley resident Jan Fuchs, who was on the original task force, said they asked several times why the widening was necessary as the road doesn’t go anywhere to the east, stopping after the El Camino Real interchange and continuing as two lanes into Rancho Santa Fe.

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