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MURRIETA: Residents score big win in city hall fight
Residents who live near golf course in Murrieta successfully sued to defeat approval of an apartment complex near their homes.

By Aaron Claverie, June 30, 2015

MURRIETA — Murrieta residents who fought city hall over the approval of an apartment complex scored a big victory recently.

Riverside County Superior Court Judge Sharon Waters ruled earlier this month that the city failed to adequately study how the 112-unit complex slated for land at the southwestern corner of the Golf Club at Rancho California would impact the area’s waterways and the traffic situation on surrounding streets.

She also sided with residents who said there may be issues that arise from relocating the tee area at the fourth hole of the course, which the developers planned to reconfigure to accommodate the complex.

“I can’t say I was expecting all the different topics that came up in the judgment,” said Murrieta City Planner Cynthia Kinser.

The ruling, which was handed down June 12, effectively spikes the city’s January 2014 approval of the project. Kinser said the council at some point will have to formally rescind its approval but she wasn’t sure when that decision would be made.

If the developer, Golden Eagle Multi-Family Properties of Irvine, wants to revive the plans, it will need to pay for a full environmental impact report and once again seek approval from the council.

Golden Eagle was looking to build one-, two- and three-bedroom units in six, three-story buildings. The complex was to include a swimming pool, tennis courts, clubhouse and gym.

It was called a “beautiful, first-class community” by Golden Eagle’s John Capelli.

Neighboring residents called it an unwanted intrusion into their lives that would mar the playability of the course, jam area roads that already strain from too much traffic and eliminate their views.

They banded together shortly after hearing about the plans and fought it when it appeared before the city Planning Commission and the council, which voted 4-1 with Mayor Harry Ramos dissenting to approve it.

“Residents felt at that time, ‘We are being taken for a ride,’” said Escondido-based land use attorney Everett Delano, who represented the residents in their lawsuit against the city and the developer. “There’s a bit of, can I really fight city hall?”

Delano’s filing laid out multiple concerns with how the city studied the project. Waters, by and large, agreed with many of the issues raised in the suit, saying the city did not follow the proper procedures for a review and downplayed some items that should have been more deeply probed.

“We’ve said that all along,” Delano said. “You can’t do it this way.”

Kinser said she hasn’t yet heard if developer plans to try again. Golden Eagle did not respond to multiple messages for comment.

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