Plans to one day build 24 luxury homes in the hills across a huge swath of pristine land southwest of Julian were unanimously approved by the Board of Supervisors Wednesday.
Although some neighbors and environmentalist complained, the supervisors said the Hoskings Ranch development proposal to keep 85 percent of the parcels 1,416 acres as permanent open space was about as good a use for the property as could be imagined shy of the government buying it for a park or preserve.
The owners of the land, Genessee Properties Inc., have agreed not to build the homes for at least 10 years. The average lot size will be about 60 acres with the smallest being at least 40 acres.
The homes will be built south of state Routes 78 and 79 and east of Pine Hills Road, roughly a bit more than a mile southwest of downtown Julian.
The supervisors approval mirrored the county’s Planning Commission decisions back in February which also approved the plans unanimously.
“Something is going to happen to this property, let’s be realistic about it” Supervisor Dianne Jacob said.
“I see this today as an agricultural subdivision.” The land is currently under a Williamson Act Contract in which landowners contract with counties to voluntarily restrict their land to agricultural and compatible open space uses. In exchange the restricted parcels are assessed for property tax purposes at a rate consistent with their actual use, rather than potential market value.
The Williamson Acts that control the areas where the homes will be built expire in 10 years.
When that happens, houses can be built as long as the residences are considered incidental to the primary agricultural use of the land. Representatives of the landowners said owner’s of each house could become “gentleman farmers,” planting apple orchards or vineyards on their lots. Meanwhile, cattle will also graze on the land even after the unfenced houses are built.
Jacob said the the plans “fit right with this board’s philosophy and is something I think is a very positive use of the land.”
Several people spoke against the project saying the county was misreading the rules that govern Williamson Act contracts, but county counsel assured the supervisors that all was being done legally.
Opponents also worried about traffic and groundwater impacts. Jacob pointed out that there is nothing keeping the property owners today from farming the land which would use far more water than 24 houses ever would.
“Obviously the people who don’t want this to happen are not the property owners,” Supervisor Bill Horn said. The landowners “have every right to develop their own property,” he said. “Twenty four lots, I think, is insignificant on 1,400 acres.”
Added Chairman Ron Roberts: “We sit through a lot of these hearings folks…it’s hard to visualize something turning out better than this in terms of what our goals are.”
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