Divided Council Fails to Approve Changes in Audie Murphy Plan

The two Audie Murphy Ranch housing tracts under discussion are planned on both sides of Goetz Road north of Newport Road and Salt Creek.
Last year, Menifee City Council Member Wallace Edgerton repeatedly stated during council meetings that the newly seated council worked together much better than the previous one. He even urged "the press" at the end of one meeting to take note of the decreased contention among council members.

Such was not the case Wednesday night, however, when Edgerton's opposition of proposed amendments to the next design phase of Audie Murphy Ranch sparked a heated exchange among council members. The resulting failure of such amendments to pass left the status of the project expansion unclear.

Wednesday night's public hearing concerned a request by the developer, Brookfield Homes, to receive council approval on adjustments in some lot sizes in two tracts planned for either side of Goetz Road just north of Newport Road. The proposed amendment did not change the number of lots -- 2,190 -- that were approved through Riverside County in 2004, and later by the City Council. It did, however, reduce the size of a small number of lots to accommodate larger park land, school sites and a fire station.

Adrian Peters, vice president of forward planning for Brookfield Residential, and planner Joel Morse presented the proposal. According to Morse, the size of all parks within the planned tracts were increased to comply with changes in the water quality management requirements since the project was approved 10 years ago.

To meet those requirements and others by the state, modifications were proposed in the specific plan for a 4.2 percent increase in park land to a total of 28.3 acres. Land for a fire station was also included, as well as increases in land for two proposed school sites and a sewer system at Goetz Road.

"The total number of lots would still be 2,190," Morse said. "The basic design remains consistent."

Council member Tom Fuhrman recused himself from the discussion and voting because his Wooden Nickel Ranch property borders the Audie Murphy Ranch project. That left mayor Scott Mann and council member John Denver, who voted in favor of the amendment, and council members Edgerton and Greg August, who voted against it -- killing the proposal.

As Mann reminded council members and the audience, the specific plan for these tracts was approved by the county as well as the previous city council -- of which Edgerton was a member. The proposed amendment had already been approved by city staff and the planning commission. But that didn't satisfy either Edgerton or August.

Edgerton's objection seemed to center around his concern that the majority of the proposed lot sizes are 5,000 square feet or less. He said he considers that too small to attract buyers in the $300,000 price range, as was speculated by Peters as an average home cost. It was difficult to follow Edgerton's explanation, however, because his rambling comments over several minutes were more about his prior experience in real estate than specifics of the proposal.

At one point, Mann rapped the gavel and asked Edgerton what his comments had to do with the proposal being considered. Edgerton's response: "I'm trying to give you some background and experience you don't have. If you give me a chance to finish, you might learn something."

Finally getting to the point, Edgerton said he doesn't "see this as a premier product. If we keep putting these ticky tack 5,000-square-foot lots in, we are not offering what the buyer wants. You should have 11,000 square feet minimum. You've gotta give 'em some acreage. I can't support a product like this."

That brought an emotional response from Denver, who is a realtor.

"I'm very frustrated by this conversation," he said. "This group is presenting what we asked them to do and more. We shouldn't punish them for doing what we asked them to do. If I were them, I would sue us."

Mann expressed similar opinions before calling for the question on the vote, several times ignoring Edgerton's request to speak further on the subject.

"Mr. Deputy Mayor, I can't disagree with you more," Mann said. "This plan was approved in 2012 and 2013. For you to publicly shame a quality development like this ... your statements have done nothing to tell people Menifee is open for business."

The four council members passed only one of four proposals related to the project -- an adendum to the certified environmental impact report. Requests for ordinances to enact zoning changes were defeated when both votes were 2-2. Because of that, proposals for the two tract maps were nullified.

So while Brookfield officials and their legal team huddled to discuss plans for a response sometime in the future, the Menifee City Council once again projected an image Mann says he has worked so hard to change.

"You talk about having a real estate license, but you're an embarrassment," Denver said to Edgerton.

In response, Edgerton referred to an earlier comment Denver made concerning the complex accounting of campaign contributions.

"You stated you don't even know where your money comes from," he said.

It was left to an obviously irritated Mann to get in the last comment after the proposal failed.

"This has just shown everyone that Menifee is not open for business after all, and we're going to get sued for this course of action," Mann said. "Next item on the agenda."


  1. I'm not certain that the current council is comparable with previous Menifee City Councils. I don't mind 3-2 votes, it demonstrates differing points of view. How is the onstage behavior of the current council compared with previously?