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Two-week deadline issued to landowners for Calexico master plan

July 10, 2001|By AARON CLAVERIE, Staff Writer

CALEXICO — The owners of farmland east of this city's limits have about two weeks to decide if they want to work with the city's planning development consultant, Brian Mooney.

Mooney, of San Diego-based Brian Mooney & Associates, will begin work on a comprehensive master plan for Calexico's future in two weeks with or without the landowners.

At Monday's planning commission meeting, Planning Director Ricardo Hinojosa gave the board an update on Mooney's recent discussions with the landowners who are interested in building hundreds of acres of homes and commercial developments.

He said most are "on board" and are looking into working with Mooney.

If so, Mooney would perform an environmental impact review for hundreds of acres of new homes which would be paid for by the developers.


There are sticking points in that scenario however.

A coalition of landowners has recently sued the city because the landowners think they have properly planned for their projects already and don't need to work with Mooney.

If that lawsuit is not settled, a judge could turn over the City Council's decision to require the EIR and embolden other developers who want to save money on the cost of an EIR for their projects.

EIR's are usually done by the acre. That means the more acres a developer is planning homes for, the more money needs to be spent to plan for those homes — unless a judge says an EIR is not required.

Hinojosa shot down the possibility that projects would be approved without EIRs and stressed that anything built will be built with Mooney's input.

He told the board that he thinks the developers would save money by working with Mooney instead of their own planning consultants.

Two months ago, Mooney was hired by the City Council to develop the master plan for commercial projects planned for north of the city and the thousands of new homes planned for the eastern farmland

This "massive plan" will allow the city to provide services such as police and fire protection for all of the new homes and address the impacts of the new developments, according to Hinojosa.

Impacts include increased traffic to existing homes and schools near the sites, construction concerns such as noise and dust and environmental problems such as the proximity of new homes to the feedlot north of Highway 98 near the Cole Road cut-off.

Mooney, a city planner who worked with the county in the early 1990s, will develop a master plan regardless of whether the developers work with him.

He is on a $50,000 contract with the city, according to Hinojosa. As a part of the deal Mooney is also going to receive money from the developers who decide to work with him instead of putting together their own EIRs.

Planning commissioner Arturo Selwick wanted to know what sort of housing developments Mooney would plan.

"Are these real planned urban developments?" Selwick asked.

In the past, according to Selwick, the city signed off on housing plans that didn't meet quality of life guidelines in an effort to get the homes built.

"I've specifically addressed that to Mooney," Hinojosa answered.

The new housing developments will be built on 6,000 square-foot lots instead of the 4-4,500 square-foot lots preferred by developers.

Developers prefer smaller lots upon which they could build more homes, and thus have more homes sales and increased profits.

City officials have said they would only allow smaller lots if the developers provided extra park space. If the developers do not include park space in their development plans they will be required to pay for park land in other parts of the city.

"What about man-made lakes?" asked Commissioner John Moreno.

Hinojosa said developers will provide any information to Mooney and he'll include their projects in the master plan.

Selwick asked Hinojosa if recent economic thunder clouds have dampened the enthusiasm of landowners and developers to build homes.

Hinojosa said the developers have done market studies and wouldn't build the homes if they didn't think they can sell them.

In other news at Monday's meeting, Hinojosa announced that Carl's Jr. will be opening up a location in Calexico.

Joining Carl's Jr. in the vacant lot where Fed-Mart used to stand at the corner of Highways 111 and 98 will be Food-4-Less, a discount grocer.

The Target store that was to have opened alongside the grocer and burger chain likely will not be located in the city.

While Food-4-Less is in the "building permit phase" there have been no recent talks with Target.

Before anything can be built at that corner there will need to be intensive infrastructure improvement, including new driveways, sidewalks, parking lots and turnoffs from Highway 111 onto Highway 98.

Staff Writer Aaron Claverie can be reached at 337-3419.

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