The Menifee Town Center project, billed as the city's future downtown, with restaurants, movie theater, civic center, office buildings, and condos, was approved last night for the most part, with the exception to the development agreement.
The city council voted four to one, with Mayor Edgerton voting no, to approve the Environmental Impact Report, the General Plan Amendment, and to create an ordinance approving the Town Center Specific Plan.
This came after the developer, Regent Properties, made five concessions after having met with an ad hoc committee within the past couple of weeks. That committee, consisting of council members Fred Twyman and Tom Fuhrman, was able to get Regent Properties to make the following changes...
- Reduce the maximum number of residential units from 1,400 to 1,052. The 1,052 units is the actual number of units that Regent had planned to build originally, while 1,400 is the upper limit that Regent could build if they needed to. The concession simply sets that upper limit to their actual planned amount.
- No residential units in Planning Area 3. If you refer to the map below, Planning Area 3 is that islanded piece of area in red labeled, "Office/Commercial". The original plan never intended to build any residential here.
- No residential units within 900 feet of Newport Rd in Planning Areas 1 and 2. Planning Areas 1 and 2 are the areas in red dubbed "Commercial" and Retail/Hotel. The original plans never intended these areas to have any residential either.
- Regent Properties agreed to conduct a soils investigation on any residential, educational, or recreational uses prior to obtaining a building permit.
- Regent Properties agreed to submit a safety plan regarding public health and safety prior to any recreational uses within Paloma Wash. This is largely in regards to building soccer fields in the bottom of the wash.
|Proposed Menifee Town Center Aerial Map|
The first three concessions are not really concessions in that they already conform to Regent's original plans. However, they simply force Regent to stick to those plans, which was one of the topics of debate in the last city council meeting.
The development agreement that Regent Properties is asking for grants them an entitlement for 15-20 years to effectively make their own call on what to build, and if they so desired, could decide to deviate from the original plans. These concessions prevents them from making those deviations, only to those specific areas.
One thing the city council did not agree to this evening was the development agreement.
The development agreement is effectively a contract that spells out the relationship between the developer and the city. The existing contract calls for a 15 year "entitlement" with a possible 5 year extension.
Council members Fuhrman, Twyman and Edgerton voiced their opposition to approving this development agreement without having the new city manager take a look at it. As of right now, the new city manager has not been announced, though it seems one has been selected. This city manager will have to provide a 30 day notice to leave his/her present position, and then once the manager starts their position here with City of Menifee, will be granted 30 days to review the development agreement.
Meaning, it could be another 60 days until the city council will make a decision on the development agreement.
Council member Twyman mentioned in the meeting that he wanted the city to "hold on to the hammer", meaning he didn't want to give away planning authority to Regent Properties, something the development agreement entitled the developer to do.
However, council member Darcy Kuenzi questioned if the development agreement actually did that. She asked interim city manager Steve Harding to provide his expertise with development agreements in his previous city-managerial position.
"This development agreement is a merely a zoning document." Harding said. "It's simply a zoning document. All of the specific buildings must still come back through the city council."
Kuenzi, who along with council member John Denver, had previously voiced her support of this project, replied back with "So the city retains the hammer, right?" To which Harding answered, "Yes."
So it seems there's a difference in interpretation on what this development agreement does. Perhaps when the new city manager comes in to provide his/her analysis, we'll find out what it really means.
Regent Properties also agreed to one other thing, to build soccer fields on a six acre piece of land slated to become the new civic center. The soccer fields will be there only temporarily until the City decides to build a new city hall building. If and when the City moves forward with that new building, the soccer fields are expected to be relocated to the bottom of Paloma Wash.