Source: Valley Roadrunner

Planning Group endorses revised Weston Town Center concept
Take it or leave it, says developer

by Michael Crane

December 12, 2013

Amid pressure from developer Herb Schaffer, the Valley Center Planning Group agreed to endorse the latest concept for the Weston Town Center Project by unanimous vote at Monday’s meeting. After years of planning and re-planning, Schaffer told the group that this will be his final attempt at this location.

“You’re dealing with the opportunity of a lifetime,” said Schaffer. “If we’re unable to get this approved, I pass.”

The proposed town center, which would be located north of Valley Center Road between Indian Creek and Cole Grade roads, would include a Stater Bros. grocery store and a CVS Pharmacy, as well as an office suite and room for several smaller, “Mom and Pop” stores.

“We tried to retain a main street character,” said David Ko, an architectural designer for the project.

The latest mock-ups show a winding main street running through the middle of the center, with smaller shops alongside it. There is also a Village Green, or small park, near the back of the center where School Bus Lane meets that main street.

One major point of frustration at the meeting was the rigid corporate requirements that Stater Bros. and CVS are demanding. The major chains have strict guidelines for the placement of their stores, the design of the parking lots (no trees for Stater Bros.), and the need for additional traffic lights.

Gridlock in ValleCenter?

Under the latest concept designs, there will be a street light at the intersection of Valley Center and Indian Creek roads, and another at the main entrance to the center, only 650 feet east of the other light.

With a likely traffic light going in at the intersection of Valley Center and Miller roads as well, many local residents are critical of the proposal due to fears that traffic congestion there will be serious.

“That is the single most heavily-traveled portion of road in Valley Center, and if you slow people down on that, you’re going to create a traffic back-up situation that’s going to exceed the boundaries of the 600 feet in both directions in heavily trafficked times,” said Robert Davis, Planning Group member.

The VC Planning Group will hold elections on Jan. 13 for officers and heads of committees.

Davis stressed the necessity of coordinating the lights to move traffic along, as well as vehemently opposing any possibility of using roundabouts instead of lights.

“Between Lilac Road and Cole Grade Road we’ll have five traffic lights,” said Jon Vick, another Planning Group member. “I don’t think that five traffic lights in just over a mile is a rural community.”

However, citing a traffic study he commissioned a few years ago, Schaffer assured the group that congestion would not be a problem.

“Traffic will be fine. Lights can be synchronized. It’s not a big deal,” said Schaffer.

As part of the Planning Group’s motion to endorse the concept, one of the significant issues left to be resolved is “unwanted traffic congestion.”

A new identity

Just reaching this point has been a lengthy and complicated process for Schaffer, who has had to navigate between community input, county requirements, and the guidelines of Stater Bros. and CVS, both of whom are still on the fence about coming into a relatively sparsely populated area. To appease all the different parties, the general design of the Weston Town Center has changed dramatically from when it was presented back in 2004. However, not all were pleased with the latest design.

“I’m still very disappointed with what we’re seeing here today versus what we saw initially,” said Deborah Hofler of Countryside Veterinary Hospital. “Slowly over the years it’s morphed into something that looks like Irvine, Rancho Bernardo, anywhere in Southern California.”

Hofler said she has been active in the process over the years with her participation in various Planning Group subcommittees.

“I don’t think we should feel like we’re being held hostage by Stater Bros. or anybody else,” she said.

Yet, as one of the few expanding grocery store chains in Southern California, Stater Bros. is an essential part of the proposed concept and without their involvement, CVS would likely pull out and the entire project would have to be much smaller.

Coming down the pipe

The Weston Town Center is only possible in conjunction with the South Village Wastewater Expansion Project. Earlier this year, Schaffer reserved nearly 200 equivalent dwelling units (EDU) and drove down the cost per EDU for everyone participating in the sewer expansion. However, he reminded the Planning Group that he could just as easily walk away, resulting in immediately higher costs for everyone else who has reserved a spot in the sewer expansion, he said.

“If we were to drop out … the equivalent dwelling unit cost for the remaining people in the South will almost double,” said Schaffer. “You’re going to have mayhem (Valley Center).”

He also told the Planning Group that if this project doesn’t pan out, he will start looking at options closer to Interstate 15, near the proposed Lilac Hills Ranch development.

After some debate, the Planning Group endorsed the concept with a few other unresolved issues, such as increasing the size of the Village Green and making the center more pedestrian-friendly. Weston will file their proposal with the county in the coming weeks, and then the Valley Center Planning Group and Design Review Board will have another chance to act on the project.