Hemet’s Downtown is specifically on Planning Commission’s minds

H■ Melissa Diaz Hernandez / Reporter
emet’s Planning Commission had a packed agenda for its Feb. 21 meeting. The meeting commenced with new Planning Commissioner James Ollerton taking the oath of office. The agenda consisted of the Downtown Specific Plan Project, the exterior color palette for AMF Hemet Lanes and the zoning ordinance amendment regarding marijuana facilities and cultivation.
Ollerton, a 45-year Hemet resident, was recommended by Hemet City Councilwoman Karlee Meyer and was approved by the City Council at the Jan. 24 meeting. Ollerton has worked in the public sector as an IT professional for 23 years. According to his LinkedIn profile, Ollerton is the director of information technology for Elsinore Valley Municipal Water District.
A Notice of Public Hearing was mailed to all residents/businesses affected by the Downtown Hemet Specific Plan. A presentation was given by Project Planner Ronald Running. The first community workshop for this incarnation of the Downtown Specific Plan was held on July 8, 2015 at the Hemet Public Library. The presentation detailed the work done by Running, the City of Hemet Downtown Advisory Committee, city staff and The Arroyo Group.
The high-level presentation covered the Downtown Hemet Specific Plan, the General Plan Amendment (GPA 16-001), Zoning Ordinance Amendment (ZOA 16-005) and the Draft Mitigated Negative Declaration. The Environmental Assessment was performed by 1st Carbon Solutions in San Bernardino. Running stated that “they prepared the initial study and a Draft Mitigated Negative Declaration.” The public review period for the Downtown Hemet Specific Plan started Monday, Feb 20 and will go to the Planning Commission meeting on March 21, 2017.
Some benefits of revitalizing the downtown listed during the presentation included economic development, providing a range of housing choices, promoting sustainability, and preserving and enhancing single family residential neighborhoods. The 360-acre project establishes nine new zones as well as establishing “development standards and design guidelines, infrastructure, circulation, sustainability and implementation plans for the area.”
During the Public Hearing, a concerned resident who lives just outside the project boundary asked if the project was going to affect the property where he lives, if they were going to buy him out and if so, the possible date? Because his residence is not included in this plan he will not be affected. Others commented on transit, issues with increased foot traffic and our current homeless crisis.
Funding sources for the plan were also addressed. The most likely sources of funding for the project would come from regional (Riverside County Transportation Commission, Southern California Association of Governments), state (Strategic Growth Council, Caltrans Sustainable Transportation Planning Grant Program) and federal (Department of Transportation, The Economic Development Administration, The Department of Housing and Urban Development) levels. Chairman John Gifford asked for an estimate of the cost for the project. This is not the first time Gifford asked about the cost or an estimated cost of the Downtown Hemet Specific Plan.
The last Public Hearing Item on the agenda was “a City-initiated ordinance amending Hemet Municipal Code section 90-79 regarding marijuana facilities and cultivation.”
Community Development Director Deanna Elliano pointed out that in 2011, the city of Hemet established a prohibition against medical marijuana dispensaries and cultivation, later making further amendments. Per Proposition 64, cities cannot ban indoor cultivation of up to six plants per residence. The city attorney, Eric Vail, said that trying to enforce the six plants growing inside one’s residence would be impractical and the city may get sued over it. Right now, code enforcement takes the lead on the enforcement of the prohibition of dispensaries with assistance from the police department and city attorney’s office. The Planning Commission voted unanimously to recommend the approval of Zoning Ordinance Amendment (ZOA) No. 17-002 to the Hemet City Council.

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