Commercial Developer Bows to the Wishes of Area Residents

This aerial view of the neighborhood shows the location of the property in question, at the nort...

This aerial view of the neighborhood shows the location of the property in question, at the northwest corner of Murrieta Road and Thornton Avenue.
It's not often that a commercial developer is praised for buying property in the middle of a primarily residential zone, but Trevor Sudweeks has scored points with the residents of one Menifee neighborhood.

The Menifee City Council this week approved an amendment in the city's general plan to change the existing land use designation of a 2.65-acre lot from commercial retail use to residential use -- after Sudweeks agreed to build only residential buildings on the site.

Sudweeks, president of Sudweeks Development, testified before the City Council July 16 that he purchased the vacant lot at the northwest corner of Murrieta Road and Thornton Avenue about a year ago. There are no commercial structures in the area, which is a mixture of new and older housing on the west side of Murrieta Road and a mobile home park on the east side.

Sudweeks said he is primarily a commercial developer, not residential, and purchased the property for the purpose of building commercial properties -- possibly a convenience store, gas station and other businesses. He would've been allowed to do so because of an inconsistency in zoning designation after the City of Menifee took control of the area from Riverside County.

At the announcement of Sudweeks' intentions, there was an outcry from local residents and testimony by many at two Planning Commission meetings. The commission sent the item to the City Council, recommending a change in land designation to match the residential zoning in the neighborhood.

Why? Not only because of the public outcry, but the willingness of Sudweeks to honor the wishes of residents and build 24 townhomes on the property instead.

"I held three neighborhood meetings with the residents and listened to their concerns," Sudweeks told council members. "I decided I would work with them."

Sudweeks received praise during the meeting not only from residents in the area but also council members.

"I attended one of those meetings, and at the end, you were making concession after concession," council member Greg August, who oversees the district in which the property lies, told Sudweeks during the council meeting. "I appreciate what you're doing. I know you've talked to the people."

Council member John Denver, a local realtor, also was impressed with Sudweeks' willingness to work with the community, probably at great expense.

"It's unusual that a developer in our town would sit down with the residents like this and listen to them," Denver said. "He bought a piece of commercial property that's worth far more than he will get out of it. He didn't have to do this.

"I'm amazed. I think we should accept the resolution (to change the land use designation) and have the city pay the money."

Denver's reference to money was the cost associated with the zoning change and general plan amendment -- roughly $12,000. By a 4-0 vote (council member Tom Fuhrman was absent), the council approved the zone designation change and payment of the fee by the city.

"I think it's entirely appropriate for the city to pay for this," said city attorney Julie Biggs during the meeting. "You've heard very loudly from the community and the developer about their wishes on this. You certainly have grounds for absorbing a very small cost to bring about a very large positive outcome."

Sudweeks seemed as satisfied as anyone with the outcome.

"I'm glad it's a quiet, happy community again," he said.

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