Update: The number of signatures for GPA 925 has been corrected.
|Local resident Randy Williams, one of those opposed to smaller lot sizes, points out areas on a map.|
Hordes of people came out to Monteleone Meadows on Briggs Road to support rural residents who are in opposition of a developer's proposal to build half-acre lots among their 5-acre farms just east of Leon Road. The proposal, known as county General Plan Amendment 925, could also affect some Menifee residents because the city's borders are nearby the lots in question.
The meeting was held to receive input from both supporters and those in opposition to GPA 925 before Riverside County officials make their final decision on July 16. The discussion was monitored by John Petty, a county planning commissioner, and led by consultant David Jeffers and long-time rural resident Randy Williams. Speakers were also allowed to voice their opinion on the amendment.
Jeffers based his presentation on land compatibility and desire for change. Although the meeting was mostly attended by residents in opposition of the amendment, Jeffers pointed out that about 220 rural residents in the area are actually in favor of building new homes with smaller lots.
"The vast majority are requesting change because they see development coming into the area," he said. "They want a different lifestyle for the area, and they see an opportunity for change."
Jeffers said about 30 rural residents signed an application in 2008 in favor of GPA 925, and there are several more applications of change in progress nearby. Later in the evening, a speaker questioned the validity of those signatures and asked if those residents still felt the same way.
Clara Asimakopoulos, owner of Flagship Real Estate, was one of the speakers in favor of change. She's been a Murrieta resident since 1989 and has sold many rural residential homes in the area. Although she owns property across the street from Williams, she's not on his team in opposition to the amendment, as many of his other neighbors are.
"Whether you like it or not, your rural lifestyle is going to change," she said, causing an uproar from the audience.
Her son Aristo also spoke, adding that his parents' home now overlooks tract homes.
"It's unrealistic to say it can only be used for rural purposes," he said. "Things can't remain static."
Many people on the opposing side want their rural residential areas to remain static because they believe it helps preserve the valley's history. But Andy Domenigoni, a member of the expansive land-owning family who settled here in the 1870s, said it's time for change.
During his opportunity to speak, Domenigoni talked about all of the problems his family has encountered over the years with the acres and acres of land they own. While he's for a balance between rural and urban, the drought has pushed him in favor of change because he's unable to farm on most of the land his family owns.
"We saw the writing on the wall a long time ago," he said. "I hope we can reach a compromise."
When residents in opposition of the amendment got their chance to speak, it was clear that none of them were willing to compromise on the land they love. Many were worried they would soon be living next to people who won't understand their quiet, country lifestyle.
"I like the dirt roads and the dust," said Dawn Richards, who's lived in the area since 1989. "I'd rather have that than all the houses down the street."
Other speakers voiced their concerns about how new construction might impact the environment, how their views might be obstructed, and how their animals might be affected.
Rick Croy, vice president of Rural Residents and Friends, talked about how half-acre lots might attract different kinds of people to the area. Their yards will be much smaller than the 5-acre lots there now, which may cause friction between neighbors who farm and own large livestock and new neighbors who don't.
"One of the things that holds us together is our love of animals," he said. "If you take that away, it splits up communities."
In an email the next day, he also mentioned that Murrieta's rural residential area is popular with residents who live in tract homes.
"As you can see from some of the comments last night, several of our biggest fans live in tract homes and love the fact that they can go a few blocks and enjoy a little bit of country," he said.
In his presentation against GPA 925, Williams argued that some of the lots they'd like to build on aren't exactly compatible because of the steep and hilly terrain. His supporters passed out maps to audience members that showed where construction could be a problems because it isn't flat enough.
As a former Perris Union High School District trustee, Williams also argued that just because new development and an elementary school might be coming to the area, doesn't mean they have to change. He cited Paloma Valley High School, which is still located in a rural area today.
After the meeting, Williams said he was pleased about the turnout, especially on the Menifee side.
"It was very impressive that the planning commissioner and council members from Menifee came to show their interest in what's happening at the city border and see how these things impact our quality of life," he said.
He added that he hopes this meeting makes a difference in the decision the county will make next week.
"A lot of residents spoke up, and a lot are in favor of a rural lifestyle," he said. "I hope it's a good result and the people's wishes are respected."
|A large crowd on both sides of the issue attended the meeting at Monteleone Meadows.|