Last night the city's Planning Commission reviewed the details of the new Land Use Plan adopted by the General Planning Advisory Committee (GPAC), and ended up concerned over the "Mixed Use" designation.
"What kind of people does Menifee want to attract?" was one question that was posed to the Planning Commission last night. "Do you want more younger people?" Those questions were asked by The Planning Center, a consulting firm that specializes in General Plans.
The Land Use Plan that the Commission reviewed is just one of seven aspects of the overall General Plan. It specifically defines how each acre of land in the city is going to be used now and in the future.
The consulting firm studied the city as it stands today and compared that with trends taking place across the country, as a way to guide the City into what kinds of developments it needs to consider, and that ultimately manifested itself into the Land Use Plan the GPAC adopted. Last night, it went before the Planning Commission, who will ultimately vote on it.
"Ten years from now, there will be jobs chasing workers." representatives from the consulting firm said, hinting that Menifee needs to attract residents that employers want to hire. "Jobs will be exported to where there are skilled and educated workers."
They also pointed out that currently, jobs have the highest concentration throughout the Inland Empire where there tend to be hospitals and colleges, and interestingly enough, Menifee has both. They also pointed out that baby boomers are retiring now, and are in need of healthcare.
But despite Menifee having a hospital and a college, it still has a low employment rate compared to nearby cities. Only 48% of Menifee residents aged 16 to 65 have jobs, compared to over 60% in neighboring cities. Of course part of that has to do with Menifee having a large retirement community.
Seemingly, one of the solutions to attracting skilled, educated workers is to build "mixed use developments", which combines a mixture of business, retail, and high density residential, namely condos and townhomes.
The GPAC had designated several areas on the Land Use Planning Map as "Mixed Use", shaded in darker purple, and it was this particular designation that sent fear into the Planning Commissioners last night.
Last week, the City Council, argued at length over the proposed "Town Center", a mixed-use development of shopping, entertainment, government, and high-density residential. At that meeting, three of the council members expressed several opinions against it, and postponed their decision for a later hearing.
That particular meeting had its repercussions last night, with the planning commissioners concerned at anything with the words "mixed use".
"I realize what a big mistake we made in approving that specific plan", spoke Commissioner Chris Thomas, in reference to the Town Center plan. "I hope that plan will be sent back to us."
|Proposed Land Use Plan - Click on Map to see full size (12.53mb download!)|
The reason for their concern with mixed-use designations is they're vague. It doesn't define specifically the mix of residential to business, or even requires there be a mix. It's left up to the developer to decide, and commissioners worried that developers could choose the worse-case scenario, building too many condominiums, and not enough commercial.
And those condominiums could be as high as four to five stories, and many of them will be placed along the 215 freeway between Newport and Scott, effectively preventing current homeowners from getting their views of mountains and hills.
The Land Use Plan the GPAC adopted said that these mixed-use areas could have up to 40 living units per acre. According to the consulting firm, that would typically require four to five story buildings.
"Everywhere we went, people said they want to keep Menifee rural!", explained Commissioner Marc Miller, referring to the many public meetings the GPAC conducted. "That's why they came to Menifee."
The newest member of the Planning Commission, Mark Matelko, appointed by Tom Fuhrman, seemed to agree. "I have a problem with mixed use, which is for urban, and Menifee is rural and suburban."
The consulting firm tried to explain that even though the mixed-use designation allows for up to 40 residential units per acre, it's likely that it would not get built out that high. But after last week's city council meeting, that explanation didn't seem to placate the planning commissioners.
Since Menifee became a city just over two years ago, it had been operating with the General Plan created by the County, dubbed "Riverside County Integrated Project" (RCIP).
GPAC took the county's plan, and kept most of it intact, but made several changes, which included designating a number of "mixed use" areas, including the Town Center, as well as another adjacent to Countryside Marketplace at the south. There's another mixed use designation on the corner of Antelope and Garbani, another at the corner of Lindenberger & Simpson, another adjacent to the hospital, and one on the corner of Encanto & Chambers.
GPAC also designated a large business park west of the 215 freeway near Scott Rd, as well as one along Ethanac & Murrieta Rds. Much of the Romoland area will develop into a mix of business park and heavy industrial, with the exception of what homes are already there.
All in all, the Land Use Plan adopted by GPAC will have an estimated build out of 142,000 residents. That's considerably down from the 197,000 residents estimated under the County's plan.
At this point, the issue stands with the Planning Commission having at least one more study session to get a second look. After that, they're expected to schedule a public hearing and take a vote.