Landowners who live on the edge of Wine Country are voicing concerns about plans for a housing tract on 50 acres north of Los Nogales Road, a rectangular-shaped parcel southeast of South Coast Winery Resort & Spa and Ponte Winery.
The developer pitching the project, a Temecula-based custom home builder, is seeking a general plan amendment from the county to put eight homes on that land, which, according to the Wine Country Community Plan, is currently zoned for a maximum of five homes.
Although the difference between five or eight homes might not seem significant, the community plan only allows up to five homes if they are clustered together and 75 percent of the land is planted with vineyards.
If the builder pursued a four-home development on 10-acre lots, which also is allowed in the plan, they would be required to plant 50 percent of the acreage with vines.
The eight-home map, in contrast, features a row of 6- to 8-acre lots set on the northern ridge line of the acreage, which would be served by a realigned Los Nogales that connects with Camino Del Vino to the east.
On Feb. 21, the Riverside County Planning Commission has scheduled a public hearing to consider the project, which planning department staffers have determined qualifies for a “negative declaration.”
That designation means the county has determined the project will not have a “significant effect on the environment,” according to the public notice for the hearing.
Neighboring landowners dispute that designation and they are actively lobbying county officials to consider forcing the developer to pay for a full environmental impact report, which would study the cut-through traffic the development would generate, the potential disturbance of land tied to the “Temecula Massacre” and its potential impact to the federally-regulated stream that runs parallel to Los Nogales.
The landowners started looking into the project after the parcel, which had been dotted with vineyard stakes since the 1970s, was graded for home pads late last year. That operation, they eventually found out, was not allowed based on the ag exemption permit that had been issued to a subcontractor and a stop-work order was issued in mid-January.
“This is far more serious than just going beyond the approved lot clearing,” according to a white paper prepared by the homeowner coalition. “It can result in an order to restore the property to a pre-graded state, or may be denied building permits for five years.”