Dozens comment on draft Ponto environmental report
Wildlife agencies wanted more information about how coastal habitat might be harmed. The city of Encinitas said its traffic concerns hadn't been adequately addressed. And area residents and their attorneys raised a multitude of issues.
By Tuesday's deadline, the city of Carlsbad reportedly had received more than 40 letters and e-mails commenting on its new draft environmental document, which covers development plans for the south Carlsbad coastal region known as Ponto.
Now, the city must sift through those comments and respond to each before it can take its final version of the environmental report to the Planning Commission and City Council for approval.
Carlsbad didn't originally plan to do this environment report -- it was pushed toward that step after an intense public outcry against its proposed Ponto Beachfront Village Vision Plan.
That general planning document, which remains in draft form, calls for putting three hotels, a resort complex, condominiums and retail shops into the privately owned region, which is bordered by Carlsbad Boulevard to the west, the Hanover Beach Colony development to the north, Batiquitos Lagoon to the south, and the railroad tracks to the east.
In its comment letter, the city of Encinitas took issue with some of the traffic data in the environmental report, saying that there appeared to be errors in the vehicle volume figures and indicating that the Ponto development plans could have a far worse impact on area roadways than Carlsbad currently anticipates.
"No project traffic is forecast to access Leucadia Boulevard, which does not seem realistic," city of Encinitas environmental coordinator Scott Vurbeff wrote in his letter to Carlsbad.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the state Department of Fish & Game sent a joint letter asking for more details about how habitat that would be damaged by development will be replaced. Any impacts to coastal bluff scrub habitat should be mitigated by preserving other habitat that is of that same, hard-to-find type, they note.
The two agencies also wanted more information about how the endangered Least Tern nesting area along Batiquitos Lagoon would be protected given that development plans call for putting a resort next door the lagoon.
They weren't the only ones raising issues related to the lagoon. The Batiquitos Lagoon Foundation's President Fred Sandquist wrote that the city's draft environmental document "lacks specificity in certain areas, making it difficult to assess the magnitude of the impacts or the effectiveness of the mitigation measures." He argued that the document needs more information about a variety of things, including how lighting, landscaping and stormwater runoff from the proposed resort would be kept from harming the lagoon.
The homeowners association representing the people who live just east of Ponto -- the San Pacifico Area "A" Association -- also had concerns about how development might harm the lagoon, in addition to many other issues. In its comment letter, the association sought everything from hourly water spraying to reduce construction dust to more information about how peregrine falcons would be impacted by the development.
The longest letter the city received -- 17 pages of commentary, plus a dozen or so attachments -- came from an attorney representing a man who lives just north of Ponto in the Hanover Beach Colony. Residents in that area have opposed plans for a Hilton hotel, which would be directly across the street from the entrance to their development.