Decision on Menifee Town Center Gets Delayed

Menifee Town Center, the development that was billed as Menifee's "downtown", complete with shops, civic center, office buildings, restaurants, a movie theater, a park, walkways and pedestrian bridges, didn't get past city council yesterday evening.

The council was being asked to approve the plan, after the plan had been approved by the Planning Commission last month. Instead, the council voted to "continue" the discussion to the next city council meeting on January 18th.

Three councilmembers, Tom Fuhrman, Fred Twyman, and Wallace Edgerton took issue with what the developer submitted, but each having different issues of their own. Only councilmembers Denver and Kuenzi voiced their approval. But knowing they would be outvoted, Kuenzi offered a motion to continue the discussions for the next council meeting, but also establish an ad hoc committee to work with the developer to address specific concerns that Fuhrman, Twyman, and Edgerton had.

Menifee Town Center Map
Menifee Town Center (shaded in orange)

Fuhrman took issue with numerous items on the Environmental Impact Report, one of which was the soccer field planned for Paloma Wash. The plan calls to build a soccer field in the bed of the wash, to which Furhman noted that he wanted to know if any sludge would be carried through the wash and on to the soccer field.

Sludge, if you're not familiar, is human feces collected from Orange County sewers, sprayed with chemicals, and spread throughout the farm fields of Menifee. However, Mike Bouris, whose family farmed the land that Menifee Town Center is now proposed, testified that they were one of the few farmers that never used sludge.

However, Fuhrman noted that Paloma Wash carries sediment from other areas of Menifee that did use sludge. "The soil sample study says that samples were taken from two piles of dirt", spoke Fuhrman. "But the study says that the origins of the dirt piles are unknown. I want to see a study of the dirt that's in the wash before I let my grandkids play in it!" referring to the proposed soccer field.

Twyman took issue with the residences planned for Menifee Town Center. The existing plans call for 1,052 residential units consisting of small family homes, town homes and condos. "That area is our future business center" Twyman explained to the developer. "I don't want to give up that land to homes. Once you build homes there, you can't go back!"

Twyman went on to talk about jobs, noting that he supports building offices, a movie theater, restaurants, and hopefully attracting a courthouse, but that the residences proposed for Menifee Town Center will bring in more people than the jobs its plans to create. "We've already approved plans for other home developments in the city, and those homes aren't selling right now!" Twyman noted.

Edgerton took issue with the timing, specifically with respect to the "developer agreement". In this case, the developer, Regent Properties, has asked the city to sign a developer agreement, which is a contract that grants the developer an entitlement to make land-use decisions for at least 15 years up to possibly 20.

Developer agreements have proven advantageous in many cities in that it allows developers to adjust to changing economics and trends by making numerous development decisions without having to seek city council approval. They've often resulted in very creative, state-of-the-art developments that generate lots of revenue.

On the other hand, an agreement lasting 15 to 20 years, in what is described as Menifee's "downtown", takes a lot of power away from the city council. Should the economy continue to sour, and the developer decides to delay building, the city would be stuck not being able to do anything about it for as much as 20 years.

Edgerton brought up the example of how the city council agreed to take part in WRCOG's 50% TUMF reduction, and ultimately got on the hook for having to owe $2.4 million to WRCOG. "I don't want to see this council rushing into another agreement like we did with the TUMF", he explained.

Menifee Town Center
Conceptual illustration of Menifee Town Center

Jeff Dinkin, a managing partner with Regent Properties, spent great lengths showcasing the plan's facets, putting particular emphasis on a new civic center, which would include a City Hall and a Superior Courthouse. California's Administrative Office of the Courts is looking to build a new courthouse to replace the existing one in Hemet. Both Hemet and Menifee are frontrunners in landing the new courthouse which could possibly remain in operation for one-hundred years, and generate lots of new business for the city.

Dinkin effectively threatened the council, "I don't want to have to call the courthouse tomorrow and tell them the city council is divided on this" he said. "Frankly, you can kiss this courthouse goodbye!"

Edgerton took on a more aggressive tone in response, "Do not tell the courthouse that this council is divided! We are united on bringing a courthouse to Menifee!" explaining that the differences of opinion lay in other matters.

The issue of increased traffic this development would create wasn't raised at all by the council, particularly because councilmembers already knew the developer was well-prepared to answer that question. Instead, the traffic issue was raised by the audience.

Anne Pica explained that while she thinks a new downtown would be nice for Menifee, that now is not the time. "We need to take care of flooded streets", she said. "What good is having a downtown Menifee, when you can't even get to it?"

Kuenzi argued that the city can't build new bridges and widen roads without money, and that this new development will generate the money the City needs. Dinkin showed a presentation that Menifee Town Center is expected to earn $1,359,000.00 a year in net revenue for the city. John Denver added, "This will be our biggest funder for the traffic problem."

In the end, the council was actually stuck on how to proceed. There were arguments on whether to send this back to the Planning Commission, or to have the city council continue hashing this out.

Twyman wondered if the Planning Commission had actually been confused by the council's desire to attract a courthouse. "When we passed a unanimous resolution to attract the new Superior Court, I think the Planning Commission felt obligated to approve this plan", he noted, which lent credence to handing the plan back to the Commission.

However, Kuenzi was adamant that this plan rests with the city council and suggested a motion to instead establish an ad hoc committee consisting of two city councilmembers to work with the developer to address specific concerns, and then bring the matter back to the council on January 18th. The motion passed, and that's where this stands now.

Edgerton appointed Fuhrman and Twyman to that ad hoc committee.




15 Comments:

  1. We as a City need to vote in People that can make an intelligent decision!!! These Ad Hoc committee's should consist non-council members and council members, so we get an actual unbiased assessment.

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  2. Unbelievable. I can't believe we have yet another delay. I agree with anonymous!

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  3. The city wants to generate more money to improve roads by more development...the existing development at Haun is great, but if it takes me 20 minutes to get from Bradley to the 215, I will choose another route, and pass other stores who get my business!! I want to spend my $$ in Menifee, improve the roads first so I can!

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  4. The City Council needs to make sure they negotiate a Sports Complex Comparable to Andaluka Park in Riverside, or Cal Oaks Sports Park in Murrieta, or any one in Temecula, to be put at this location also. They need to fight hard for the courthouse.
    Come on people the City needs to move forward. Not stay in the dark ages. More development means more traffic. I've been in the area since 1992 when Menifee had little to no traffic. I don't like the congestion any more than anyone else. But I want the convenience of Shops, Restaurants, etc.
    It all takes time, and the Traffic issue will be taken care of, just not immediately.
    City Council needs to look at Temecula and Murrieta and see how they have structured Commercial and Residential zoning.
    To the people complaing about traffic delays, try living in Quail Valley right now, with Goetz Rd./Railroad Canyon Road being closed at Canyon Lake Drive East.

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  5. I was truly embarrassed for our city at the council meeting. I could not believe they were not prepared for this prior to the meeting. They acted as though this was the first time they heard about the proposed project. The developer has spent much time and money and presented what he thought the city wanted. Doesn't anybody on the city staff talk to each other? The issues presented last night cannot be solved at a regular council meeting and they should have been better prepared for the developer's request. It was on the agenda! The ad hoc committee that was agreed to last night should include more than the 2 council members...we already know what they want. There should be at least 2 more non-council members to provide input. This is an embarrassment for the city to not have been prepared.

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  6. The town center will require the completion of Sherman Rd to Newport. Going East on Newport you will not need to go all the way to Haun to get to it.
    Also, there are other ways to get to the Marketplace without going to the corner of Newport and Haun. It really isn’t that difficult.

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  7. Anonymous @3:21PM, to say the city council was not prepared for this is not correct, they've had their eyes on this for a long time, with the exception of Fuhrman who just joined the council a month ago.

    City councilmembers are prevented from discussing city matters with each other, or making decisions or negotiations, unless the public has been notified ahead of time, and allowed to listen in. That's part of the "Brown Act" of California, designed to protect voters from politicians that make secret deals. Without the Brown Act, city councilmembers could call each other on the phone and effectively hold meetings that the public has no input on.

    That's why you saw what you saw last night.

    The exception to all this is to create an "ad hoc committee", which is not subject to the Brown Act, but must be limited to a specific task. An ad hoc committee can only be established during a city council meeting where the public can witness.

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  8. To JANUARY 05, 2011 3:21 PM
    I agree, the Council should do all of their business behind closed doors before the meeting, so we know nothing about how they feel about a project like this. Huh?

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  9. Stop trying to develop areas with more houses. There are plenty of homes in Menifee right now that are in great locations. If you want the property value to rise a little raise the demand not the supply.

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  10. Our City Council needs some serious lessons on development. You do NOT build more businesses without providing proper roads, bridges and traffic evaluations.

    I am all for more business in Menifee, but the traffic on Newport over the 215 and the traffic on Scott Rd. over the 215 are ridiculous!!!

    I am seriously concerned for emergency services and anyone needing their help.

    We need a bridge somewhere between Scott Rd. and Newport Rd. over the 215. This bridge needs to be at least 3 lanes in both directions with dual on-ramps and off-ramps for the freeway.

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  11. To January 06, 2011 5:57 PM.

    Where does the money come from to build roads?

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  12. The council should be communicating with the state and providing traffic information in order to receive funding.

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  13. I think the city is smart to develop in order to create city revenue. They are actually trying to save home owners a lot of money by having the center built and then in return use that money to start on improvments for the rest of the city. Think about it, they build stores for us to buy the things that we need, and instead of traveling to Murr. or Tem. we spend our money in our city and in return the city can afford to start on other improvements. Why give the other cities our business. What we would be getting is our store purchases and our roads fixed with the same money.

    Im sure they could get a contractor to fix the flooded roads issue, but that would raise taxes and nobody can afford that right now. we need to let them build, bottom line. if they build our property values go way up, ill deal with a little traffic to have peice of mind that my home has some good value in it for years to come. also it will save money and time so lets come together and support the build it will benefit everyone in the long run.

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  14. I moved to Menifee from Orange County for two main reasons:

    1. Better Schools
    2. Small Town Living, less traffic, small town atmosphere!

    Over the last four years I've seen traffic, ,and noise, constantly on the rise! The 215 Fwy at Newport and Scott Rds is appalling! and down right unnavigable! I've had to sit through three traffic light signal rotations because vehicles blocked the intersection at Newport and Antelope!

    It's less frustrating to drive down to Temecula and shop there than navigate the roads to the Marketplace!

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  15. Temecula used to have the same traffic issues. Police used to direct traffic on Rancho Cal. Rd. during the busy times of day. We could use that here in Menifee.
    The 215 is a nightmare in both directions at any time of the day. I try to avoid it when ever I can.

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