By David Downey
In a decision that sets the stage for a new “city” to sprout next to a wildlife refuge, Riverside County Supervisors on Tuesday, Dec. 5, approved a scaled-down version of the controversial Villages of Lakeview plan for a rural area between Perris and San Jacinto.
The Board of Supervisors voted 3-1 to adopt the plan and OK related documents for the project. That means as many as 8,725 houses and condominiums could be built, along with some commercial development, on nearly 2,800 acres.
The number of homes is well under the previously proposed maximum of 11,350, and the change erased a residential component in a narrow strip along the north side of Ramona Expressway that borders the San Jacinto Wildlife Area. The vote followed a lengthy board hearing last month in which there was no decision.
In moving to approve the plan, Supervisor Marion Ashley said the developer had made major efforts to improve the project, including setting aside more than 1,000 acres of open space.
Ashley said the project has several cutting-edge components, such as preserving farmland, establishing a shuttle service from the community to Metrolink’s Perris Valley Line, and creating an environmental stewardship program to emphasize the importance of the wildlife refuge.
He said Villages of Lakeview also would help fill a regional housing shortage.
“We all know that we need housing,” said Supervisor Kevin Jeffries, the lone dissenter.
But he warned the project would create a city bigger than some existing Riverside County towns, eliminate a longstanding rural community and spill huge amounts of traffic onto the congested 215 Freeway and other arteries.
“The fundamental question today is the quantity, and the impact that quantity will have on our quality of life,” Jeffries said.
The vote disappointed dozens who traveled from rural Nuevo and Lakeview, and surrounding communities, to show their opposition to and, in some cases, speak against the project. Many wore bright red T-shirts that read: “Keep Nuevo Rural.”
They weren’t impressed by the reduction in homes. David Goodward, of the San Bernardino Valley Audubon Society, suggested that change didn’t alter the nature of the project.
The bottom line, said Margaret Strachan, a teacher who lives in Nuevo, “the scope of this project is absolutely massive. It’s just massive, mega, high-density development. It’s absolutely not acceptable.”
Moreno Valley resident Kathleen Dale said the location was the wrong place for such a big housing project.
But Dave Shepardson, pastor of Calvary Chapel Nuevo, said the developer made the project better.
“There have actually been huge changes in this plan to mitigate concerns,” Shepardson said.
The plan has flexibility. At least 660 homes are likely to be single-family houses, while another 1,540 dwelling units could be either single-family or condominium-style shared-wall homes, according to Russell Brady, a county planner.
The blueprint also calls for 3,750 dwelling units in a high-density residential area and 2,775 in a mixed-use zone. All are likely to be condominium-style homes, Brady said.
Randall Lewis, one of the principals for the Upland-based Lewis Group of Companies, the developer, said in a phone interview earlier that the new city people are anticipating won’t sprout overnight.
“This could be a 20-year project or longer,” Lewis said. “And we’re not sure when it will start.”
Lewis said he believes the project will prove beneficial and create jobs during construction and after the community is completed. And, he said, there will be a robust buffer between the community and wildlife area.