Carlsbad lagoon development plan likely headed for public vote

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CARLSBAD, Calif. — A planned upscale retail and dining center that would overlook the Agua Hedionda Lagoon in Carlsbad is likely headed to voters after opponents announced Tuesday that they collected enough valid petition signatures.

The group Citizens for North County formed to oppose a plan by Los Angeles open-air shopping mall developer Caruso Affiliated that would result in the shopping and dining center, but also preserve 85 percent of about 203 acres of open space near Interstate 5 and Cannon Road. Much of the property has been used for decades to grow strawberries.

The company contends the project will maintain most of the open space and allow the popular farming operation to continue.

The Carlsbad City Council approved the project, which allowed it to bypass the normal environmental review. The citizens group wants voters to make the decision.

With backing from the Sierra Club of San Diego, League of Women Voters and local chapter of the Surfrider Foundation — among other organizations — Citizens for North County collected 9,100 signatures, which were submitted to the Carlsbad city clerk last month.

A little over 6,500 needed to be valid. With that threshold met, the City Council will have to decide whether to place the question on a regularly scheduled 2016 election ballot, call a special election, or repeal its approval of the project, city officials said.