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Temecula City Council voices its objections to the Winchester Community Plan

Tony Ault

Staff Writer

The Temecula City Council strongly objected to Riverside County’s recent Winchester Community Plan that could bring upward of 33,000 new homes to the area adjacent to Temecula’s northern boundary on Winchester Road at its Oct. 25 regular meeting.

Mark Collins, assistant planner, said in his report that the Interstate 215 Policy Area for the Winchester area is related to an increase of residential density by 33,000 units, with traffic impacts, road and freeway mitigation measures, public service infrastructure, compliance with California Environmental Quality Act and the 2003 Settlement Agreement and the 2005 Cooperative Agreement between the city of Temecula and Riverside County.

The 42 square mile area borders Temecula and Murrieta on the south, Menifee and Murrieta on the west, Hemet to the north and east.

Temecula Councilmember Maryann Edwards reminded the council that, in 2005, Temecula won four legal cases against Riverside County concerning a similar issue with Menifee’s and Murrieta’s housing plans that required them to provide the possible environmental impacts on Temecula which, again, is the same question with the Winchester Community Plan.

She argued that the only way the proposed traffic from the plan could get to San Diego County reasonably would be on Winchester Road.

“It’s the only one they might use,” she said.

She indicated that the huge amount of traffic “would destroy” all of Temecula’s I-215 interchanges.

Luke Wilson, Temecula deputy city manager, told the council that the county’s plan “is not adequate. It has an unclear project description of where it begins and where it ends.”

Mayor Matt Rahn said, after hearing the report, “This is a massive project that cannot sustain the size of a city like Temecula and an infrastructure that is capable of moving 100,000 plus to the area…. All that we have built to maintain our identity and quality of life in Temecula is put at risk because of this project. This is a massive issue. The county is making some disingenuous decisions right now,” he said.

“There is a lot of deception going on because they are not being clear on what they might do. It’s dangerous,” Rahn said.

Collins said that the proposed “Winchester Community Plan Draft Programmatic Environmental Impact Report” was discovered by staff Friday, Aug. 12.

“Staff completed an initial review of the document and found it to be woefully inadequate as an informational document, key information necessary to allow for meaningful analysis of the impacts was excluded or omitted,” Collins said. “The city’s primary concern is the incomplete and undecipherable project description; the project description includes a discussion of existing land uses and land use designations within the proposed Winchester Community Plan, but it does not include any mention of the actual proposed Winchester Community Plan policies or include the proposed land use and circulation plan.”

According to the report, “the project would result in significant and unavoidable impacts to air quality and greenhouse gas emissions with the PEIR analysis concluding that “no mitigation measures are required.”

Temecula staff said it appears to circumvent the required mitigation efforts of CEQA. The PEIR concluded that there will be significant and unavoidable impacts to: “Noise and vibration, transportation and agriculture and forestry services all of which the city cannot analyze accurately due to the lacking project description.”

In conclusion Collins found that “In developing the Winchester Community Plan and Draft PEIR, the county has completely ignored its obligations under the settlement and cooperative agreements. The development already approved and contemplated under the proposed Winchester Community Plan and other proposed development projects will directly result in adverse traffic impacts upon the city, the Winchester Community Plan Area and the cities surrounding the Winchester Community Plan Area (Murrieta, Menifee, Wildomar, Lake Elsinore, Canyon Lake, Hemet and Perris).

“There is no plan to finance the remaining major arterial roads described in a cooperative agreement that are needed to mitigate the traffic impacts of residential units in the area under the existing (county) general plan. The county has not conducted a freeway study (as required by the settlement and cooperative agreement) nor come up with a traffic mitigation plan for the additional 33,000 residential units in the new Winchester Community Plan,” Collins said.

The report continued, “The city of Temecula is seriously concerned that the nature of development and the seemingly blind eye turned toward the requirements of CEQA and the settlement and cooperative agreements will result in dramatic traffic impacts to the city and surrounding communities from which the region may never recover. If development in the I-215 policy area were allowed to continue unmitigated, the negative impacts to the quality of life enjoyed by the residents of Temecula would be forever altered and decades of proactive and strategic transportation planning work and infrastructure construction completed by the city would be entirely undermined.”

The fiscal impacts to Temecula could not be easily calculated “due to the indecipherable project description, omission of land use tables, outdated assumptions and modeling software. However, the impacts would be substantial in both transportation facility expansion and increased maintenance costs. Currently there is no identified funding for transportation facility construction or maintenance associated with the inevitable impacts of the proposed county of Riverside development projects.” according to the report.

The council, after discussing the issue, received and filed the report and were looking to gain a better insight from the county on the proposed Winchester Community Plan. The plan also calls for commercial, industrial, a revitalized downtown, mixed use and open space.

Tony Ault can be reached by email at [email protected].

 

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