Harmony Grove Residents Concerned Over Fire Dangers With New Housing Development - NBC 7 San Diego
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Harmony Grove Residents Concerned Over Fire Dangers With New Housing Development

Harmony Grove Village South is the first new housing development in San Diego County required to comply with the Wildland Urban Interface plan.

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    NEWSLETTERS

    New Development in Harmony Grove Causes Concern

    A new development proposed in Harmony Grove has some residents concerned the additional homes would increase the fire danger for existing residents.

    (Published Monday, March 5, 2018)

    People who live in Harmony Grove are upset about a proposed housing development, which they say would compromise their safety.

    The focal point of contention is a 111-acre plot of undeveloped property southeast of the intersection of Harmony Grove Road and Country Club Drive.

    The Harmony Grove Village South project would build 453 homes next to protected land that can't be developed.

    The project calls for more homes than allowed in the San Diego County General Plan, which was approved in 2011 with significant input from the community.

    "They're building more homes than the area is designed for and the general plan has prescribed," said Elfin Forest resident J.P. Theberge. "The general plan prescribes a third of (the proposed development) perhaps less than that, so they're trying to triple the density in this little space than they're entitled to."

    The developer, listed as RCS Harmony Partners, LLC, has asked the Board of Supervisors for an amendment to the general plan. The board is expected to make a decision on their request this year.

    "We're in an area that burnt not only 2 to 3 years ago in the Cocos fire, the entire area burnt. We lost about 30 houses about 100, 200 yards from here," added Theberge. "I want the Board of Supervisors to look at this plan and to look at what the evacuation risk really is."

    The project would include road improvements, but neighbors say it's not enough.

    "When you keep adding more and more residents to this area, with the limited number of streets and two-lane roads that we have, now you're creating a highly dangerous situation in which people are going to get trapped in their vehicles," said Kevin Barnard, whose property borders the project site.

    Fire agencies have reviewed the development plans for Harmony Grove Village South, and consider it safe.

    "Our role is to take the fire code and apply it to every new development. We make what's called facts and findings," explained Cal Fire Chief Tony Mecham. "Our role is to provide our expertise to the elected officials, the planning commission and ultimately the board, and let them make the decision. We do not approve or deny development."

    Mecham said the homeowners' concerns are valid, and often raised in other communities.

    "We have to build communities to withstand fire, and that's in the type of building materials that we're using, the roofing, the amount of defensible space or clearance around the structures," Mecham added. "And the second of it is that residents follow the Ready Set Program. When we say to leave, they need to leave. What happens is people wait until they think it's a perceived threat, and then they decide to leave. And usually that's too late."

    Harmony Grove Village South is also the first new housing development in San Diego County required to comply with the Wildland Urban Interface plan.

    The comprehensive guide maps out a neighborhood's topography, water supply and potential hazards.

    It also lays out evacuation plans and needed resources, to help firefighters respond to wildfires more quickly.

    Community members are set to voice their strong opposition to the proposed project during the San Dieguito Community Planning Group, which is set to meet April 5.

    The planning group will make a recommendation on the project to the county.