Councilmembers wore cowboy hats, barbecue was served and chairs inside Wildomar city council chambers were painted white with black spots like cowhides for an event that not only looked at where Wildomar was going, but also where the city had been.
Wildomar Mayor Tim Walker delivered the ninth “State of the City” address, titled “The Past Makes Our Future,” before a crowd of several dozen people. He talked about the city’s history, before embarking on a discussion that covered everything from housing developments to widely anticipated commercial and road projects.
A past dating back to the 1800s
Walker first talked about Wildomar’s founding as a community in the late 1800s. He noted that the name Wildomar came by combining the names of three founders, “Wil” from William Collier, “Do” from Donald Graham and “Mar” for Graham’s wife, Margaret Collier Graham.
By the late 1800s, Walker said, the community had much to offer residents including a hotel, horse stables, a blacksmith shop, stores, a lumber yard and a park, but not much happened for the early part of the 20th century. Railroad lines that went through the area were discontinued because they were plagued by washouts during periodic heavy rains.
Things would change with the construction of Interstate 15 through the area in the 1980s, he said.
“Once again Wildomar had begun to grow and experience new prosperity,” Walker said.
Maintaining some of the rural charm
Walker said the area’s rural feel won’t be snuffed out completely, in spite of impending growth.
“It is a rural ranch,” Walker said. “Even though we have a lot of housing coming in here, if you look around, there’s a lot of pieces of property that will never go anywhere else but what they are now. They’re two and a half acres, they’re 5 acres. It’s set up perfect for this area.”
Over the past seven years, Walker said, the town has averaged only 500 new residents per year, and at build out, the town will have about 54,000 residents.
“That’s it,” he said. “We got smoked a long time ago by all of our neighbors, but that’s OK. We like ‘em, and we like our hills right here that are kind of messing up the plans.”
What’s coming and what’s already here
Wildomar has about 1,380 homes approved for construction, of which 360 are already under construction or completed. The homes range in price between $400,000 and $500,000, Walker said.
“These developments will eventually provide homes for an estimated 4,000 new Wildomar residents,” he said.
Wildomar’s general plan allows for a build out of 12 million square feet of retail space. Walker questioned whether Wildomar would ever have that much retail, but said the opportunities are there and the city is glad for new businesses.
Walker touted many new amenities in the city such as new commercial centers and a list of new businesses that includes Dunkin’ Donuts, Baskin Robbins, Taco Bell, The Yellow Basket and more.
He also talked about projects expected to come to fruition in the coming years, including a Mt. San Jacinto College campus that will be built on land on Clinton Keith Road; a Wal-Mart supercenter on Bundy Canyon Road and road improvement projects on portions of Bundy Canyon and Clinton Keith roads.
A tribute to a friend
An early part of the event included a tribute to former Planning Commissioner Stan Smith, who died in August.
A longtime Realtor in the area, Smith had been a proponent for the city to incorporate in 2008. He was also known for his in-depth knowledge of the town.
During the “State of the City” event, a video showing Smith told the story of how he came to Wildomar.
He bought his home in Wildomar in the 1970s at his wife’s request to be closer to his job.
“Haven’t regretted it,” Smith said in the video. “Good friends, I’ve met a lot of good people. It’s just outstanding.”
Walker said Smith and his contributions to the town would be sorely missed.
“The general plan is a living document that is flexible and is updated through amendments as needed,” Walker said. “A plan that provides the guidelines for developing the future of this community and this region. Stan was instrumental in the general plan. The man knew a lot.”
Walker said Smith’s words have stuck with him.
“He always told me, ‘just stand strong, do what’s right, tell the truth, never go any other way,’” Walker said. “And that’s what I live by because he was my friend.’”