Council Puts 'Great Wall' Debate On Hold

By Chris Lavin

LaMesaToday.com Editor

LA MESA – Back in 2005, when the real estate market was still booming, Michael Reynolds thought he could build a new home project between the 125 and Garfield Street south of Lemon Avenue.
He met with the existing neighbors around the project site and, in some views, won them over with a promise of a sound barrier that would shield the entire neighborhood from the drone of nearby traffic.
That was then and this is now.
The market turned flaccid and Reynolds, a long-time La Mesan and a prominent San Diego County builder, was back before the City Council asking to eliminate the 1,000 foot sound barrier from the 31-home project he still wants to build -- but not if he has to spend $1-million on a sound wall he now argues isn’t needed.
“It just doesn’t pencil out with that wall,’’ Reynolds said.
Neighbors of the project site came before the council Tuesday night, saying Reynolds sold the project with the wall as a “carrot’’ to the existing neighbors and that he should be held to the promise.
“If he made a bad business choice,’’ said Sigmund Diener, a neighbor, “why should we as citizens of La Mesa suffer because of that decision.’’
Of course there is no sound barrier there now and current residents have been living with the 125 for decades now. New residents of Reynolds’ development presumably would only buy his new homes if they decide they can live with the traffic noise, which one described as being loud enough to drown out her “ghetto blaster.’’
Consultants for Reynolds and independent studies say the noise levels are not high enough to require a sound a barrier in the neighborhood, but local residents point to a 2005 study that suggested noise levels that would necessitate erecting the barriers along the 1,000 foot stretch of 125.
There is much at stake in the city. At a time of declining revenues, new building adds property and sales tax to the city’s operation and there is little undeveloped land left in La Mesa.
The council members were clearly pained by the conundrum facing them. Reynolds has their respect and long relationships with council members (four of the five reported receiving campaign contributions in the past). Still, there was logic to the residents’ complaints.
Mayor Art Madrid asked Reynolds to spend 30 more days working with local residents and the Caltrans officials present to see if a compromise could be worked out. If not, the council will cast a vote on the request to eliminate the wall at its meeting in the end of July. 

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Tags: Government

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