SAN DIEGO-A last-minute letter from opponents of a multimillion-dollar shopping center planned in a rural East County area has prompted county supervisors to postpone the project’s approval.

Locally based South Coast Development wants to build a center anchored by a Ralphs supermarket and several smaller stores in the Lakeside-Flinn Springs area. The center would include 500 parking spaces.

Though the developer had hoped to get the supervisors’ approval last night, some local residents and environmental groups submitted a last-minute letter to the board. The letter contends that state law requires South Coast to first perform a full-blown environmental impact report for the project. County planners had only required the builder to perform a less-comprehensive type of report, which South Coast was hoping would be enough to satisfy the supervisors.

It wasn’t. The delay means that South Coast, which has been planning the project for about two years, will likely need to wait several more months to see if it can obtain approval to begin construction.

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