Thursday, November 4, 2004
Hemet shuns proposal to build more homes
By KENNY KLEIN
The Riverside (CA) Press-Enterprise
HEMET – About 45 acres of land near the Hemet-Ryan Airport will remain zoned for business, dousing a developer’s dream to build more than 200 homes there. That was the decision of about 75 percent of Hemet voters who cast ballots Tuesday against Measure PP.
Hemet City Manager Steve Temple said Wednesday that the community rallied behind its leaders’ decision to reject homes on that land. The Hemet City Council and Hemet Planning Commission had denied requests for a zoning change to pave the way for the homes, which led to the developer putting the issue to voters.
“It was clear that there is broad community opposition to giving up scarce job-generating land,” Temple said.
The property owner, Newport Beach-based developer Charlie McLaughlin of Athalon Properties Inc., could not be reached Tuesday or Wednesday.
But Temple said few options existed for the property valued at $2 million. McLaughlin could sell it to someone interested in commercial development or develop it himself, Temple said.
McLaughlin spent more than $100,000 on a campaign to have his property rezoned, records show. The money was spent on cable television, signs, telemarketers, a public relations firm and other items. The city spent no money, Temple said.
Mark Goldberg, a member of an anti-Measure PP group called Hemet Tax Payers for Jobs, said the vote showed residents back the city.
“The best thing about this is that the citizens upheld the city’s land-use plans and did not respond to the developer’s expensive consultants and tactics,” Goldberg said. “The citizens showed him that he can’t buy the city.”
The group’s treasurer, Chuck Wright, said it raised about $24,000 to fight Measure PP.
The controversy began several months ago when McLaughlin planned to build about 230 homes on the west side of Kirby Street south of Acacia Avenue.
His plans were denied by the Riverside County Airport Land Use Commission, the Hemet Planning Commission and the Hemet City Council.
Goldberg, whose group surfaced in August, said the commissions denied McLaughlin’s request because it was “unsafe and inconsistent” with long-standing airport use plans. Goldberg’s group also said the property was a dangerous place for homes because it lies in the airport’s final approach path.
McLaughlin disagreed and pointed out that there are several housing and mobile parks that surround his property.
Throughout the debate, city officials said the land should be used for commercial / manufacturing and light industrial to attract jobs.
McLaughlin said a city-mandated traffic study showed there would be less traffic in the area if his property was rezoned for homes. The city disagreed, saying he distorted facts.
Cam Cox, a 57-year-old Hemet resident, said she voted against Measure PP because she saw signs that read “Keep Jobs in Hemet,” but heard little else about it.
“I thought … there are not a lot of jobs in Hemet and we need to keep the jobs we have,” Cox said.