Rural Business Owners Battle Menifee Officials on Use Permits

Jack McGrath, who has operated an auto repair shop in Menifee for nearly 40 years, says he was told...

Jack McGrath, who has operated an auto repair shop in Menifee for nearly 40 years, says he was told he would never again need a conditional use permit.
In some ways, Menifee could be described as the extreme example of the inherent struggles present when the old meets the new.

Rural charm? Sure, we want that -- some more than others. Modern housing and business development? Yes, we want to grow; we're just not sure how much.

Before 2008, Riverside County told us what to do. Since then, the City of Menifee has told us what to do. But wait; the city folks' hands are tied in some cases because of pre-existing County action that can't be undone.

We have farmers. We have soccer moms. We have bumpy dirt roads. We have crowded, narrow freeway overpasses.

And in the middle of all this, you have situations like the one pitting J & A McGrath Auto against City Hall.

OK, so it's not really McGrath vs. City of Menifee. This isn't a boxing match, or even a court battle. But it does show what can happen when Menifee's old guard meets the constantly evolving governmental structure of one of the county's newest and fastest growing cities.

Jack McGrath opened his auto repair business in what was then unincorporated Menifee in 1976. A third-generation member of a family that has lived in the Menifee Valley since the 1930s, McGrath takes pride in his belief that J & A McGrath Auto is the oldest continuously family operated business in Menifee, if not all of Riverside County.

But today, McGrath and his wife Ann say they are being wrapped up in red tape by the City of Menifee, which has notified them that they must pay thousands of dollars in order to have a current conditional use permit and make any improvements the city code enforcement department deems necessary.

City council member Tom Fuhrman, who represents the district in which McGrath Auto is located, estimates that as many as 300 small businesses in Menifee's rural area could face code violations and fees because of codes that were not enforced during the transition period from county to city jurisdiction.

Scott Mann

City officials say that while they are respectful of the status of longtime business owners, they are simply upholding the laws that apply concerning zoning ordinances, business licenses and building permits.

"Tom Fuhrman and I are very supportive of the rural business owners,"