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Proposed new commercial center faces many hurdles

Tom Ferrall

The proposed "Mission Canyon Center Project," which would place a gas station, food mart, drive-thru restaurant, and other commercial businesses in the vacant canyon located just north of the intersection of East Mission Road and Interstate 15 in Fallbrook, faces many major hurdles.

Members of the Fallbrook Community Planning Group (FCPG) informed Robert Faudoa, Jr., president of Gary Engineering, Inc., and his clients, Hy Sao and Sudhir Patel, of the numerous obstacles confronting their project during Land Use Committee and Circulation Committee meetings on Tuesday, March 15, at the Palomares House.

Faudoa, Sao, and Patel learned they not only face civil engineering challenges in trying to build in the deep canyon adjacent to I-15, but also a lack of a support for their project by some members of the FCPG.

Under the proposed project, the 6.4 acres of rough terrain would be subdivided into three lots and include the following: an Arco service station complete with an AM/PM food mart, car wash and electric charging station; a restaurant with a drive-thru; and a small commercial development to host four tenants.

Faudoa explained the project, which is in its early conceptual stages, to members of the FCPG as follows:

"Parcel one, on the west end, would be a small commercial development, 8,000-square feet or so. The middle parcel would be some type of restaurant with a drive-thru, something around 3,000-square feet. The last parcel, at the bottom on the east end, would be a service station with a food mart and car wash (about 4,600 square feet).

"What we envision as far as grades go, since everything is sloping down to the east end, the three pads will be at different elevations. The first lot would be pretty close to the road level or five or 10 feet below it. Then you’d go down 25 feet to the middle lot, and then another 25 feet to the last lot, the service station.

"The first entrance, going east to west, would be a right-in, right-out only. We’ll have a deceleration lane for vehicles to decelerate going into the project. We’ll have an acceleration lane for vehicles making a right and going out. We’re also proposing a signalized intersection at the cul-de-sac at the west end to allow customers that come out of the facility to be able to make a left turn. We have to deal with Caltrans on a signalized intersection. Controlling that intersection I think would be beneficial to the road.

"The plan calls for a zone change from agricultural to commercial. It also involves a Major Use Permit and a General Plan Amendment. It involves a lot of things. We understand it’s an uphill battle. We understand the issues that are already against this project for trying to get it approved, but we’re trying to take everybody’s input and put pen to paper and go from there. We’re trying to do baby steps here."

Jack Wood, chairperson of the Land Use Committee, said getting the General Plan Amendment would be tough.

"That’s going to be an uphill battle, a severe uphill battle," said Wood. "Because we have determined in the Fallbrook Community Plan, which really started in 1988 and has evolved over the past number of years, that we wanted to restrict strip malls and commercial development on both East Mission and South Mission, so we would prevent friction (traffic) coming off of that road.

"Based on the traffic count, Mission, on both ends of town, should be a four-lane boulevard," continued Wood. "There’s no money to build a four-lane boulevard. It doesn’t make sense to make it a four-lane boulevard. So the only option we have is to limit the friction by restricting commercial development, and that has been done. The businesses you see there were grandfathered in from 1988, and there has been no other development, at all, other than those existing commercial properties that are there now. And if it were under today’s circumstances, none of those would have been approved."

Wood also related that he already talked to officials at the Rainbow Municipal Water District about the project.

"I have talked to Rainbow Water and I’ll tell you very honestly that Rainbow Water is not very excited about this project," said Wood. "First of all, you’re not going to be able to use septic, because you’ve got way too much water and too many businesses that would be influenced by it.

"Do you know where your nearest sewer hook-up is?” asked Wood, in continuing his comments on the project. "Well, I can tell you exactly where it is. The closest one is at the corner of Ranger Rd. and Reche Rd., at the trailer park. And the second hook-up that you could possibly do would be at "the bridge to nowhere" on Old 395. You’re looking at three to four miles of eight-inch sewer line. That’s the first issue, because that’s a very expensive proposition, and the expense would have to borne by your company. The second issue in talking with Rainbow is that I’m not certain they can even take on this project."

Wood added that he would be greatly dismayed if the young project was ultimately approved.

"I’d be extremely disappointed to have this project move forward in violation of the Fallbrook Community Plan," said Wood. "If it were to go through, it would destroy all the rest of the community. How in the world could we as a committee or as a planning group limit anyone else who wanted to build a strip mall along Mission, either north or south. We would have no justification for turning anyone down at that point."

Other FCPG members also expressed concerns about the project increasing traffic on Mission Road.

"This project has huge issues with circulation," said Anne Burdick, chairperson of the Circulation Committee. "I would think the financial burden on the developer to fix all the difficulties that are going to arise because of it, would make it just undoable. When you have to sit out there in the afternoon and watch the traffic, it doesn’t go anywhere. And so it’s really difficult to think of a thriving commercial center surviving."

The project did get support from FCPG member Roy Moosa, who heads up the Fallbrook Revitalization Council.

"I would be all for it for a couple of reasons," said Moosa. "I think this is a useless piece of property; it will never be used for agriculture, and it will remain a ditch for eternity until somebody does something with it. If you can guys can figure out a way to engineer it into something, it would be a benefit to the community. "If it were to be designed properly and would represent the character of Fallbrook, maybe designed with a rural country feeling to it, and if it had a California Welcome Center where people were able to get brochures and find out places to go and things to see in Fallbrook, which the Chamber and the Village Association have been fighting to get, then I think this could become an excellent entrance into Fallbrook," continued Moosa. "I think it could be a huge benefit for tourism, a welcome mat to people who want to come visit Fallbrook."

Burdick said the expected negative traffic impacts outweighed the potential positives of the project.

"I will certainly agree with Roy’s idea that having an entry statement and a Welcome Center would be fabulous, but not at this corner, not in this area," said Burdick. "The whole dynamics of that is overwhelming for us at this point, just as it is. There are so many fixes that need to happen with the roads and the traffic flow, that to add anything to it would be a nightmare for all of us."

Wood said he believes the citizens of Fallbrook aren’t interested in creating a "gateway" into their village.

"We’re not looking for a gateway into Fallbrook," said Wood. "Fallbrook is an unincorporated village that is isolated to some extent from the major development and the sprawl of retail businesses along the roads and freeways. That’s what our community has prided itself on. People in this community, and I’ve lived here 20-some years, don’t want to come into another congested area. They love to get out of Temecula, they love to get out of Orange County, they love to get out of San Diego, and once you turn off that freeway you’re in the country, and all of sudden you’re back home."

The "Mission Canyon Center Project" was item No. 7 on the agenda for the regular meeting of the FCPG and Design Review Board meeting on Monday, March 21. However, after hearing from the Land Use and Circulation committees on March 15, Faudoa asked that his project be removed from the docket.

"I learned a lot from this morning’s meeting and this afternoon’s meeting and I’d rather have some time to properly digest all this information," said Faudoa of his request to have the project removed from the agenda. "I’ll take all this information and see if we can come up with another version of this (project) to present at the next meeting."

When asked if he was discouraged by what he heard at the two meetings, Faudoa responded, "Not at all. A project of this size and character, especially when the community is so involved in what goes where, you have to take baby steps. I have. I’ve been doing this for 34 years. I’m very patient; it’s my clients I worry about."


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