County rejects request for higher density housing in Borrego Springs

SAN DIEGO — County supervisors Wednesday voted down a controversial land-use change request in Borrego Springs, after hearing from dozens of opponents.

The property owners wanted a higher density for a plot of land near Tubb Canyon. If approved, it would have allowed a developer to build up to 169 units, according to county officials.

Board members voted 3-2 against any change, with Supervisors Kristin Gaspar and Bill Horn opposed.

Horn suggested sending the agenda item back to county staff to propose an alternative, but colleague Dianne Jacob said that wasn’t necessary.

Jacob suggested that the property owners work with the Tubb Canyon Desert Conservancy on a possible open-space acquisition.

Chris Brown, representing the property owners, said there was no actual project before the board and stressed his request was about “returning the zoning to where it was.”

Brown added that while the property owners have rights, he’d be wiling to support a development cap of 145 units.

Jacob said the board has to consider what’s fair to Borrego Springs residents.

County staff recommended denying the request for a proposed map change in the desert community, because it would sit within a flood plain. The county Planning Commission voted for an alternative map.

Opponents — many Borrego Springs residents — cited threats to the fragile ecosystem, including bighorn sheep and an ocotillo forest that draws tourists. Others said the housing proposal threatened community character or mentioned that Borrego Springs lacks enough water for such a development.

Fifteen hundred residents signed a petition opposing any land-use change, said David Garmon of the Tubb Canyon Conservancy Group.

Borrego Springs resident Barbara Tartre said she was “thrilled that the right thing was done.”