Something very important happened to Highland during the last legislative session but it flew under the radar of the people most negatively impacted.
The legislature can be complicated to follow, with a record 1,359 bills filed this past 45 day session. Two of them were consequential to Highland specifically and they involve a large area of undeveloped land within our suburban city. In a typical fashion, our representatives assured us that they were attending to our needs to have a connector road adjoining North County Blvd (4800 West) and the Alpine HWY. A road is desperately needed to alleviate the traffic burdens surrounding the High School and existing neighborhoods along North County BLVD/4800W, SR92, and Alpine HWY. This has been a battle waged for decades. As the city infrastructure is gradually being overburdened, many were relieved that our representatives were laying the groundwork to solve this
problem. Many argue the road is insufficient and that *multiple* roads are required to absorb the current through-traffic resulting from the rapid growth in our surrounding cities, yet nobody wants the roads in their neighborhoods. And, many feel the proposed road will be regulated to such low speeds that the traffic relief will be very small. Nonetheless, they passed House Joint Resolution 7 authorizing the Developmental Center Governing Board to “approve the sale or long tern lease of USDC land for the purpose of building an East-west corridor.”Hemmert and Kennedy, neither of whom live in Highland, were praised for their efforts to help our city. While the connector road wasn’t perfect, it was better than doing nothing about an escalating safety issue.
While our representatives were taking credit for helping us solve our traffic problem, they were working much more quietly on Senate Joint Resolution 8. SJR8 is easily confused with HJR7 because they both deal with the sale of the land owned by the developmental center. However, there is a BIG difference. HJR7 allows highland to put a small east-west easement though the hay fields for the purpose of alleviating congestion in front of our high school, on our residential roads and our residential outlets. But SJR8 authorizes the USDC to “approve the sale or long tern lease of 143 acres of land and water rights” for the purpose of residential and commercial development. Residents were informed in March via a city newsletter, after the bill was passed, that the current “plan” for the land (which could change) involves 630 apartments, 193 Single family units, 50 town-homes and 200 senior apartments. That’s conservatively, 2,540 new residents. In addition, the plans include 134,000 sq ft of retail on 6.2 acres and 40,000 sq ft of retail on 1.5 acres. The Mayor’s message added, by the way, “your city and school district will need to provide services such as police, fire, classrooms and teachers with diminished revenues.” (emphasis added.) That’s US. A request for the financial projections; costs and benefits resulting from the development plan has not received a response.
This kind of sprawl isn’t sustainable given our infrastructure and there are currently no plans for additional connector roads. In addition, if the land is leased, Highland will not receive any of the sales tax revenues generated by the proposed retail development.
This proposed development threatens the safety of our neighborhoods and is a slap in the face to the residents that believed their elected officials would actually represent them.