Question of proposed Menifee Central Park restrooms under discussion

The action of Menifee’s former city manager approving a modification to the planned 5-acre Central Park project in the Menifee Town Center without City Council’s approval and who will pay for the park restrooms, the city or the developer, will be discussed by an ad hoc committee and returned for a public hearing March 15.

The decision to further discuss the issue, appealed by the developer Stark Menifee Land, and its parent company, with an ad hoc committee was made after almost two hours of public hearing on the matter Feb. 15.

The appeal made by the developer centers around an agreement in a second amendment made by then City Manager Rob Johnson in November 2016 that the city would drop its condition for the developer to build a pedestrian overpass to the park with the understanding that the developer would pay for the construction of a two-stall restroom that was not agreed to in the original specific plan. The cost of the overpass was estimated at $250,000 while the restroom costs an estimated $300,000.

Representatives of the developer who made the agreement in good faith with the city manager appealed the condition after it was determined the cost of the restrooms, a suggested children’s splash pad and other unexpected costs would far exceed the developer’s $1.7 million budget for the park. They hinted that if the appeal for further negotiation was not made the park project, long in the planning stages, might not come to pass. Council initially was not involved in the agreement.

Robert Lennox, the city community services director and City Attorney Jeff Melching, noted former City Manager Rob Johnson did have the authority to make the agreement with the developer, but the city council could after the public hearing either affirm or invalidate the contested second amendment and take it back to a committee to further negotiate the amendment.

“We must have restrooms in the park,” Councilwoman Lesa Sobek said, who voted with the council to form the ad hoc committee following the hearing. Sobek, Mayor Pro Tem Greg August and newly appointed interim city manager Ron Bradley will be on the city’s ad hoc committee. The results of the committee’s decision may be heard at the March 15 city council meeting.

The factual second amendment, as presented to the council, gave an explanation for why the developer entered the appeal.

“On Nov. 22, 2016, the former city manager, on behalf of the city of Menifee, executed the second administrative Adjustment with Stark Menifee Land. The Second Administrative Adjustment states that since approximately March 2015 the city and developer ‘have continued working in good faith on the final design of the Central Park Master Plan, and during those discussions, the city requested certain changes in the design of the Central Park Master Plan that would have increased the cost substantially.’ As an accommodation to those increased costs, the Second Administrative Adjustment states that the city and the developer ‘have continued to work in good faith to identify appropriate modifications to the city’s requests while reducing the overall cost increases.’ Indeed, the Second Administrative Adjustment states that, even with the prior reduction of the $250,000 obligation to fund a pedestrian bridge, accomplished through the March 26 First Administrative Adjustment, a substantial ‘funding gap remained in the budget for the Central Park Master Plan.’”

The developers and the ad hoc committee will be meeting to discuss any modifications that can be made to further advance the engineering and construction of the proposed park in the center of the Town Center. The developer’s representative at the Feb. 15 meeting pointed out that they had given the five-acre property to the city as a park without cost along with other city properties.

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