City Council Approves Horse-Friendly Gated Community

Murrieta city officials remain committed to attracting high-tech companies and other large commercial entities, but the City Council show...

Murrieta city officials remain committed to attracting high-tech companies and other large commercial entities, but the City Council showed Tuesday night that preserving what's left of the city's rural landscape also is a priority.

The council unanimously approved plans for a 64-acre gated community on the west border of the city that will include 13.5 acres of open space, a 3.5-acre equestrian facility and horse riding trails. Impressed by the developer's willingness to adjust the plot plan to preserve riding trails and open space, council members also unanimously approved a required change in the city's general plan and a zoning change of the area from Large Lot Residential to Single Family Residential.

The zoning change will allow the Markham Development Management Group to build 53 residential lots ranging from a half-acre to one acre while preserving open space for the type of equestrian activity that is common in the area. The parcel is located on the south/southeast side of Vineyard Parkway, southwest of Hayes Avenue and Murrieta Creek, and north of Dawnwood Street.

The parcel lies adjacent to the proposed Vineyard project, a 1,000-unit residential development approved by Riverside County before Murrieta's incorporation but still on the drawing board. A renewed proposal on that project is being developed but is still in the planning stages, said council member Rick Gibbs. The eventual Vineyard development would require the addition of an elementary school in the area, City Planner Cynthia Kinser told council members.

Yet even though the Vineyard development would add a substantial amount of homes on relatively small lots, the presence next door of a horse-friendly community and riding trails on the surrounding hillsides helps preserve what Gibbs (left) calls "part of our heritage."

"There's been a lot of pressure to see commercial industry on the west side of town," said Gibbs, referring to the more rural part of the city. "This was a farming and ranching community to begin with. When we first formed the General Plan Advisory Committee in 2004 and had a public meeting, about 250 people showed up. Many of them were horse owners. They were saying, 'Murrieta should not forget its roots.' "

Gibbs is a proponent of new commercial industry in town and has supported the growth of the health care and tech corridor bordering Interstate 215. Even so, he says, there must be some accommodation for those who enjoy the equestrian lifestyle -- including large business owners.

"Yes, we want to attract industry, but not every CEO wants to live in Bear Creek," he said, referring to a gated community of million-dollar estates without equestrian access. "Some of them do want equestrian spaces for their homes.

"If you're the CEO of a large business in Orange County and you want to move here, you want to know where you can keep your horses. You can't keep them in Bear Creek."

Council members also pointed to the willingness of the applicant, Larry Markham, to listen to the concerns of area residents. While including an equestrian center on the tract map, he agreed to move that facility from the east side of the parcel to the west side after listening to concerns of homeowners living to the east, across Murrieta Creek, about the potential odor and flies associated with it.

The equestrian facility, riding trails and streets within the gated community will be maintained by the homeowners association.

The project also includes the right-of-way for the planned Army Corps of Engineers Murrieta Creek Flood Control Project, which is still in the early funding stages.

"This is an extraordinary project that brings estate sized homes," said council member Alan Long. "The applicant took into consideration the people and neighbors in the area. He swapped locations of the equestrian center. He made the revised proposal better and I think he did more than his fair share."


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