This article was originally published on the Press Enterprise website on December 12, 2017 by Shane Newell (link to the article).
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Plan bringing up to 1,750 homes near Old Town Temecula is approved
The landscape west of Old Town Temecula is set to undergo a huge transformation.
The Temecula City Council voted 4-1 Tuesday night, Dec. 12, to move forward with the Altair housing project. The plan calls for up to 1,750 housing units on 270 acres in the foothills west of Old Town Temecula.
The council’s endorsement of the project stretching from Rancho California Road to Pechanga Drive came at the conclusion of a more than six-hour meeting. About 100 people came in and out of the council chambers during the marathon session.
Councilman James “Stew” Stewart voted no.
“I love the project,” Stewart said near the end of the meeting. “There’s really nothing I do not like about this project except the impact it’s going to put on the 15 (freeway).”
The decision from the council paves the way for San Diego’s Ambient Communities to build on the vacant site. More approvals, such as a final map, are needed before construction of homes can begin, Community Development Director Luke Watson said last week.
The first-half of the meeting began at 3 p.m. with presentations from city officials and Rob Honer, principal at Ambient Communities. Throughout the meeting, council members asked questions about the project’s size, features and impact on traffic.
After a 15-minute break, the city opened a public hearing, during which nearly 20 people people spoke about the project.
Supporters from groups such as the Boys & Girls Club and Veterans of Foreign Wars praised the project for offering more housing and a new bypass road.
As part of its development agreement, Ambient Communities will pay nearly $30 million to fund the bypass and bridge over Murrieta Creek, a city report states.
Resident Darren Diess said the Altair developers have become involved in the community and helped find jobs and housing for some of Temecula’s homeless.
“Altair is making a huge step forward in making a difference,” he said.
Others from groups such as the Nature Conservancy and the Center for Biological Diversity expressed concerns about the project’s potential impact on the environment and wildlife.
“We remain concerned about the impacts to wildlife corridors,” said Trish Smith, a Nature Conservancy ecologist.
The groups urged the council to wait a few weeks before voting on the Altair project so environmental groups could address their concerns and pore over new documents included in a city report posted last week.
At one point during public comment, council members and city officials left the chambers after a woman refused to leave the podium. After walking around the council chambers with a “Stop Altair” sign, she eventually left.
About 30 percent of the 270-acre property will be reserved for housing, which could be a combination of apartments, condominiums and single-family residences. The remaining 70 percent is for open space, parks, trails and an elementary school, Honer said.
Plans call for a 5-acre park, 8 miles of pathways and trails and a 55-acre site that could be home to a nature center. Some commercial space also is included.
Because the Altair project will increase the city’s population by a few thousand residents, a bypass to link Diaz Road with Temecula Parkway is included in plans. The road will run west of the new homes and provide an alternative to Old Town Front Street.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct the spelling of resident Darren Diess’ name.
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