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Trash-Burning Energy Plant Approved In Historic Vote

September 17, 1987

SAN MARCOS, Calif. (AP) _ Residents approved the construction of a $217 million trash-to-energy plant in a vote the plant’s startled developer called unprecedented.

″People have voted against landfills and against trash plants, but they’ve never voted for something like this,″ said Richard Chase, managing director of North County Resource Recovery Associates. ″This is history.″

Chase said construction of the facility would begin within weeks and the plant could be running within 2 1/2 years.

″The people of San Marcos have sent a message across the county, across the state and across the nation about how trash should be dealt with,″ he said.

According to final results from Tuesday’s balloting, 2,927 yes votes, or 52 percent, were cast for construction of the trash-burning plant at the San Marcos Landfill. About 48 percent, or 2,698 people, voted against the project, which is expected to process the bulk of the garbage in the northern San Diego County region.

San Marcos, a community of about 20,000 located 35 miles north of San Diego, has the only landfill in northern San Diego County. The landfill is expected to reach capacity by 1991.

Proponents of the plant, proposed in 1982, pitched the facility as an environmentally sound project that also would produce revenue. Recyclable material would be separated from the trash, with the garbage remaining fed to boilers to produce electricity for as many as 40,000 homes a year.

″I’m just happy we won,″ said Mark Loscher, vice mayor of San Marcos. ″Now we can put an end to the years of hearings and studies and get on with a tremendous advantage to the city.″

Opponents claimed the incineration technology posed a potential health and pollution.

Jonathan Wiltshire, who led a group opposed to the plant, said he would take the issue to the courts again, perhaps as soon as Monday, in hopes of bottling up the project. Previous legal challenges by the group on environmental grounds had delayed the project for years.

Pam Thornton, a spokeswoman for the developer, said Thursday there have been other referendums on trash-burning plants in the country.

″But as far as we know, this is the first time in the nation that a plant has won by a vote of the people. All the others failed,″ she said.

Though Proposition A officially was placed on the San Marcos ballot as an advisory measure, the San Marcos City Council agreed to abide by the outcome of the special election.

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