Murrieta is creating a revolving fund to help restaurateurs cover water and sewer connection costs, which can range between $30,000 to $100,000 depending on the size of the establishment.
The City Council will consider forming the $100,000 fund — a novel financing mechanism that could be replicated in other area cities — at Tuesday night’s regular meeting, which is scheduled for 6 p.m.
“This is pretty unique,” said Jeff Murphy, the city’s development services director.
Property owners or restaurateurs that take advantage of the new program will be required to open their establishments within 12 months from the date of the city’s first installment payment of the connection fees and the entire loan must be paid off in two years, starting from the date the restaurant opens for business.
The loans will be secured by a lien on the property/and or leasehold interest, a lien on business assets and appropriate guidelines.
Money to seed the fund will be pulled from the $1,000,000 the city earmarked for the Murrieta Marketplace project, money that was going to offset a portion of the $5 million in street improvement costs associated with the French Valley shopping center.
That project is still moving forward but the agreement that led to the creation of that specific capital improvement program (No. 8425 – Regency Development) expired last year.
“However, the funds are remaining set aside to allow for the opportunity to negotiate a potential future user. As a result, the $100,000 loan does not have any impact on any current project or agreement,” according to Murphy’s staff report for the council.
The developers of the shopping center are working on a new development agreement that could be considered by the Planning Commission and council in July.
“We are very excited about this effort,” Murphy said Monday. “This program, in conjunction with other initiatives currently under development, will help transform Downtown Murrieta into a unique destination location for boutique retail establishments, restaurants and offices.”
One of the projects that could qualify for the new connection fee program, Murphy said, is the Wiens restaurant that is going into the old Plowboys building.
The city has long sought to enliven the downtown region — more Temecula or Gaslamp San Diego, less Mayberry — but some residents love it as it is, a quaint throwback that gives the city of 100,000-plus a genuine small town feel.
This dynamic has led to some clashes in the last few years as the city approved plans for businesses such as an outdoor restaurant and a microbrewery that will bring more traffic to formerly sleepy streets.
City officials have justified the changes to the plan for the downtown — which included scrapping the ‘historic’ part of its name — by pointing to the revenue the area could generate for the city’s general fund. And there are plenty of residents who have been pining for more shops and restaurants, such as DownTown PUBlic, that give them a reason to stay local instead of driving down to Old Town Temecula.