A similar plan submission for a 210-unit apartment complex off Washington Avenue and Nutmeg Street was approved in September 2005, but the permit has expired since then and a new application has been filed for approval, according to Murrieta public information officer Robin Gates Godfrey.
Los Angeles-based project developer Bart Buchalter said that they may begin breaking ground on the project sometime next year if all goes well, although Jeff Murphy, director of developmental services for Murrieta, said the review of the project can take anywhere between four to 12 months, depending on the analysis and impact.
According to the prior plans from 2005, the property was initially purchased in 2000 and was zoned for multifamily residency, according to Bulchalter.
The 2005 document showed a 210-unit apartment complex that had been previously approved for 54 senior units and 156 market rate units, with 430 parking spaces.
The current project planner for the newly submitted plans is James Atkins, who has the 210-unit apartment permit application on file. The permit will be presented at a hearing within four to six months, according to Godfrey. The public will have time to speak on the matter during public comment session. A notice will be sent out to residents who live within 300 feet of the proposed site to alert them of the hearing once the meeting date is decided.
The new plans show 17 buildings on the nearly 14-acre site in contrast to the initial 2005 plan of 23 buildings. The plans no longer show any single-story apartments, replaced with buildings that are two to three stories tall. The new plans also no longer offer senior housing, only market-rate units. Lowering the building count has allowed for more amenities, Atkins said. Some of the amenities include a dog park within the premise and a bocce court. Another addition includes 445 parking spaces.
Now that the project has been resubmitted, the process starts over again for approvals, according to Murphy. The first of these processes involved a meeting with the community recently.
Residents, those who were both pleased and concerned about the project, were able to speak with Buchalter. The calls and emails being received by city staff from concerned residents are being taken into account with planning and environmental concerns, Godfrey said.
“There is a substantial amount of outrage which is not unusual with these kinds of projects, no matter where you build them and no matter how well or beautiful they’re designed,” Buchalter said, adding “Ours is very beautiful.”
Buchalter and an architect worked together in designing the future space.
“There is always a contingent of people, doesn’t matter where you go who feel that apartments lead to crime, lead to poorer people moving into their neighborhoods, to too much traffic,” Buchalter said. “When we’re done with them, most will actually feel like the neighborhood has improved.”
The Oct. 15 city council meeting saw several citizens share major concerns over the project and worry that it would affect water and sewage, traffic, wildlife and health concerns.
“There’s a lot of stigma when you build apartments, there just is,” Buchalter said. “Most is unfair. There are elderly people, the children of the people within the community, and there are many, many, many people who simply just can’t buy a house right now or should not.”
Buchalter said that these individuals should also have the option of a nice place to live.
“We don’t come there and buy a beautiful piece of land in a beautiful area like Murrieta and do something that doesn’t help the community, it’s just not our way,” he said.
Lexington Howe can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.