The future of The Triangle—the long-planned commercial development on 64 acres at the point where Interstates 15 and 215 intersect in Murrieta—is uncertain as the city and property owners head into Tuesday night’s City Council meeting.
The agenda item, which calls for amendments to The Triangle specific plan and the city’s general plan, as well as adoption of a revised environmental impact report, was initially scheduled for the Aug. 20 City Council meeting. It was rescheduled for Tuesday due to a death in the Domenigoni family, which owns the large swath of property.
The updated development plan by Domenigoni-Barton Properties proposes a 1.76-million-square-foot, open-air district that would include a hotel, retail and office space, restaurants, entertainment venues and pedestrian and bicycle paths. Approximately 20 percent of the project would be dedicated to open space, with areas for outdoor dining and casual seating.
A sticking point during Tuesday’s public hearing will most likely be whether the city will allow drive-thrus and gas stations as permitted uses; when the matter went before the Planning Commission in May, commissioners approved the plan but recommended drive-thrus only be allowed for banks or pharmacies.
City planners have kept that recommendation, according to a report prepared for City Council.
“The proposed land uses in The Triangle Specific Plan are in concert with the type of upscale, master-planned regional center that the City envisions, with the exception of the drive-thru and gas station uses. It is staff’s position that drive-thru and gas station uses are not appropriate for this type of regional center,” wrote Senior Murrieta City Planner Dennis Watts.
“Drive-thru facilities and gas stations are currently located on both the east side of Interstate 215 and the west side of Interstate 15 in close proximity to this project site. Neither of these uses lend themselves to an upscale regional center that promotes a walking environment because they are not conducive for pedestrian connections to other development/buildings within this project site. Staff recommends removing these uses from The Triangle Specific Plan,” Watts wrote in the report.
As a precursor to Tuesday’s hearing, a meeting held Aug. 28 at City Hall was attended by the family representative for the project, Andy Domenigoni, as well as city planning staff and city management.
In a phone interview following that meeting, Domenigoni told Patch he is not willing to budge on the drive-thrus and gas station issue.
“I think that the issues that we are bogged down in are really so minute for the project because it is a 64-acre project and we are talking about a gas station and few drive-thru restaurants that would make up maybe three or four acres,” Domenigoni said. “So I think we are missing the picture of what the project is really about.”
Domenigoni said the family purchased the property in 1998 and has been paying approximately $100,000 in taxes per year since. They've also spent a lot of money on revamping the plans.
The updated development plan is a take on the Murrieta Springs Mall that was approved by Riverside County just prior to the city's incorporation in 1991.
The key changes to the original county-approved specific plan, according to a Murrieta city staff report, include the following:
—Revising the height limitation for the hotel and office buildings located at the three corners of the site to a maximum of 280 feet and 200 feet in two other planning areas;
—Reducing the amount of retail space and increasing the amount of office, restaurant, and entertainment space, within the same maximum gross building area;
—Providing amended standards for advertising structures and signs, including maximum square footage, height, and aggregate number of signs; and
—Updating development standards Separating Design Guidelines into a separate document for purposes of streamlining the process of making future design changes.
“This Specific Plan, still undeveloped, now represents an even more critical piece of land in shaping the City’s vision and the future of retail and employment within the city,” Watts wrote. “The vision could be fulfilled with the development of an upscale, master-planned center that would provide a sense of place for residents to work and shop as well as to congregate.”
It is estimated that once the four phases of the project are complete, The Triangle would bring an estimated annual net of $2.9 million in tax revenue for the city along with 4,500 permanent jobs.
Domenigoni contends that: “The value of the land is what you make of it.”
“It can be a piece of land with a park in the middle but how valuable would that be? It all depends on what you put in there,” he said.
He said their hope is that the Council will overturn some of the issues the Planning Commission and staff have.
“I hope the Council realizes these couple little issues are not something to take lightly. It is very important for all of us in the city, and us in the family...What it comes down to is our vested rights and property rights.”
If Tuesday’s Council decision does not go the way Domenigoni hopes, he told Patch the family would mostly likely challenge it within an allotted 30-day window.
“We would evaluate it after the 30 days,” he said. “We would get back with our (design) team and legal counsel, and see what the family’s wishes are.”