About 200 people attended Tuesday night’s development presentation at the Murieta Equestrian Center.
See the meeting presentation (7.5-MB PDF)
The North developers announced Tuesday night that they are withdrawing their application to annex the first phase of the Retreats development into the Rancho Murieta Association, an application that has generated an RMA survey of community sentiment and a petition drive to force a yes-no vote.
“Our goal was to have one association,” development partner Tom deRegt told about 200 people at a community meeting called by the developers. “Ultimately, ownership feels strongly, I feel strongly, that that is the best thing for this community. It appears that is not going to happen, you know, based on the process that the RMA board has pushed forward.”
Tuesday’s meeting, the second offered by the developers since they filed plans with the county a year ago, was held at the Murieta Equestrian Center.
“We’re going to talk to the RMA board,” deRegt said of annexing the 22 Retreats homes, “but we just don’t feel that we’ve got the support. We think the community believes that one association is the best thing; a lot of people I talk to do. But we don’t have the ability to, obviously, get it done at this point. We’re going to continue the dialogue, but we will be moving forward with the Rancho North Association.”
The meeting was structured much like the first, in August, which resulted in a turn-away crowd at the Community Services District Building.
The session was opened by Carol Anderson Ward, head of the development group and owner of the equestrian center. She emphasized her family’s connection to the community before turning the mic over to deRegt. There was warm applause at the conclusion of each of their presentations.
Ward said she and John Sullivan, her former husband, have lived here more than 35 years.
“We’re not going anywhere,” she said. “We want the things to happen to be built in this community that make this an even better place to live. ... We want amenities. We want growth. We want rooftops to support a shopping center that brings us everything we need so we’re not up and down the highway so much. We want a community center. ... We want it all here, and we’re trying very hard to do it right.”
The crowd applauded when she spoke of the new North Gate, which the developers designed and helped fund. “We’re very proud of the front gate. It was the first thing we were really involved in out here, and I think we’ve got it as good as a front gate gets,” she said.
DeRegt, a Carmel-based developer and partner in the Murieta project, covered a range of topics in a presentation that ran about a half-hour.
He said the original plan to the county called for 924 lots. Now the plan is at 827.
“All I can tell you is what we proposed in October 2014 is not going to be what’s in front of the board of supervisors, and it’s not going to be the final approved project,” he said. “It’s an iterative process, based on consultants, environmental constraints, community feedback.”
Here are some of the topics he covered.
► The Mutual Benefit Agreement, which the previous developers and RMA signed in 2003
“Our proposed total unit count is less than the total unit count in the Mutual Benefit Agreement,” deRegt said. “I want to clear one thing up here. When we submitted our application in October 2014 to county staff, we told them that our unit count was above the MBA agreement, but that we knew during the process, that where those lots were going to be placed, that we were going to back down at the MBA number. So never did we jam through a plan with more lots. We’ve always known the MBA document was there.”
He called the MBA “a flawed document” that doesn’t serve the developers or RMA well.
► MBA “Exhibit H,” which sets lot-number limits in different areas
DeRegt emphasized the change in plans in the last year, reducing the count of planned homes, and acknowledged some areas aren’t in line with the MBA. “We know there’s some areas we still need to talk about, to look at,” he said.
He argued that planned Village A, the land along Murieta Parkway, is poorly served by the MBA’s limits. The MBA allows as many as 329 lots, but that would mean smaller lots and higher density than proposed or the removal of many more trees, he said. “We think it’s very inappropriate and will not be proposing it,” he said. Instead, the developers want to move some of these lots to other proposed villages, which has generated criticism because it means increasing the number of homes in areas of great natural beauty.
► Lot size
“One thing I want to make sure I emphasize here," deRegt said. "With our proposed 827 lots, 292 of those lots are proposed to be less than 12,000 square feet. Over 550 (approximately) of our 827 lots are estate-sized lots. No one’s trying to jam production (housing) in here on anybody. These are very generous lots.”
► The Retreats
DeRegt pointed out the current developers inherited approved plans from the previous developers.
“Now, there were flaws, or variances, in the approved product, in the approved map, because design guidelines changed after that product was approved by the county,” he said. “So some of the discussion that’s going on, as far as the motivation and the product, we want to understand that we inherited product, we inherited lots, and lot locations, and we attempted to make that product better and bring that forward.”
He said the county was “extremely rigid” about attempts to change the tentative plan and improve it.
► Community center
The developers believe it’s important. “We think it’s going to be more difficult now that we’re going down the road of two associations. ... It’s another layer, but we’re not going to give up on it,” deRegt said.
DeRegt: “One of the questions that was asked of me was ‘Why didn’t you come forward sooner in this process?’ I said, ‘Well, to be perfectly honest, we have to be respectful with the county. We have to respect the county’s process and work with staff. If we jump too far out ahead of them, they’re not going to be very cooperative as we work through the process.’”
Rather than field questions from the full audience, the session broke up into small groups where participants could focus on a particular topic – shopping center, Retreats, infrastructure, hotel, Murieta North.
One person in the audience objected to the arrangement and said there should be a forum for questions to be asked and answered in the full group. Some audience members applauded his comment.
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