The pumping of groundwater by Maderas Golf Club and the concerns of nearby residents about diminishing water levels were discussed by the four candidates for the Poway City Council at the final public forum before the November election.
Appearing before an audience of close to 100 people at Painted Rock Elementary School Wednesday night, two of the four candidates—Gary Vineyard and Steve Vaus—said the needs of residents should come before the needs of businesses.
“The people who live in Old Coach and the people who are dependent on groundwater have been there for many years,” Vineyard said. “There were there far before Maderas was there.”
“We have to balance resident needs with business needs, but residents always come first,” Vaus said. He added that he would listen carefully to both sides before making a decision.
Candidates Jeff Mangum and Jim Cunningham said they would consider all the facts before coming to a decision, with Mangum noting that the candidates were warned by the city attorney that it would be improper for them to pre-judge an issue publicly. Mangum added that he owns property in the Old Coach area.
“And yes, my well is dry,” he said.
Mangum said his general approach to any issue is to weigh all the evidence and listen to all sides of a debate.
“In a situation like this where there’s an existing conditional use permit, in my view the burden of proof should be on the person who’s seeking to change the conditional use permit,” Mangum said.
Cunningham said decisions on issues like groundwater use have to be made after careful consideration of the facts, not on politics or personal opinions. Situations like Maderas’ use of water requires taking the time to form a reasoned, logical response, he said, adding that a decision must be made, even if it’s a tough one.
“There will be two different opinions when it comes to the Maderas water issue. There’s no question,” Cunningham said. “But ultimately we have to take our time. You guys are counting on us to make those decisions.”
The City Council has hired a consultant to analyze research from different experts on the impact the golf club has on the water levels in the area. Maderas owners have requested a revision of their conditional use permit that would modify monitoring requirements but keep the annual limit on water usage in place.
Questions posed to the candidates at the forum were chosen by the Poway Chamber of Commerce and the Green Valley Civic Association, and a few from the audience were also asked. Among the topics was how to handle traffic on Poway Road.
Vaus said that the issue will be addressed more thoroughly when the planned Walmart expansion is finished, but called for synchronizing the stoplights on Poway Road.
“It can take 20 minutes to get from Garden Road to the Ted Williams in the morning. It shouldn’t be that way. Let’s synchronize the lights, let’s do proper traffic engineering after Walmart and we’ll be in much better shape,” Vaus said.
Mangum said traffic engineering is something that can be done immediately to improve traffic flow on Poway Road. He suggested locating businesses so they’re not gathered together, routing traffic through the same area at the same time.
“I think there are other things we can do with our business community to try to alternate start times for employees, and those are the kinds of ideas I think we can be really aggressive with,” Mangum said.
Cunningham said that traffic is a symptom of progress, and the car dealerships along Poway Road are selling cars at a record rate. He said the city has begun synchronizing the lights on Poway Road and is studying how to improve it.
“The last thing I’m going to do is stop traffic on Poway Road. That’s not happening. That’s our corridor, that’s our commerce center,” Cunningham said.
Vineyard, a retired motorcycle police officer, agreed with synchronizing the lights along Poway Road but wondered why it wasn’t done 20 years ago. He said Escondido has successfully synchronized the lights on Centre City Parkway. Poway’s geography poses a challenge, he said.
“We only have two major east-west thoroughfares, Poway Road and Scripps Poway Parkway.”