Settlement Agreement Reached In Lawsuit Over Proposed Wildomar Development

The plaintiffs had petitioned the court with demands on the large-scale Oak Creek Canyon project proposed by Sunbelt Communities LLC.

The development calls for 275 single-family homes and a five-acre commercial center to be constructed next door to The Farm community. File photo credit: Toni McAllister
The development calls for 275 single-family homes and a five-acre commercial center to be constructed next door to The Farm community. File photo credit: Toni McAllister

A development project in Wildomar that calls for 275 homes and a commercial center to be built along Bundy Canyon Road near The Farm community has attracted two legal challenges, one of which has now been settled.

According to a settlement agreement signed off on last month, Wildomar resident Martha Bridges and consultant John Burkett had petitioned the court with demands on the large-scale Oak Creek Canyon project proposed by Sunbelt Communities LLC. The two plaintiffs wanted to see stronger conditions of approval from the city, namely assurances that sewer service for the project would not rely on the Farm Mutual Water Company system.

“The settlement provides the people of Wildomar with several safeguards that the plaintiffs maintained should have been built into the Oak Creek Canyon project's original Conditions of Approval by the City Planning Department as part of their lengthy pre-approval process,” Bridges wrote in a released statement.

Wildomar City Council approved the project in June.

Now, as part of the project’s conditions of approval under the settlement agreement, Sunbelt has agreed to construct a sewer line that will connect into Elsinore Valley Municipal Water District’s system prior to final map approval on the development. Per the settlement agreement, a faithful performance bond covering 100 percent of construction costs must be secured by Sunbelt. The bond provides financial assurances to the city that the work will get completed.

Prior to the settlement, there had been discussion that sewer for the project would temporarily utilize the Farm Mutual Water Company’s system. That system relies on older technology, including a spray field where sewer water is showered. Under the settlement agreement, the Farm Mutual Water Company is prohibited from providing sewer services for the proposed project.

“The question people should be asking is why it took months of labor by concerned citizens and a costly lawsuit to provide Wildomar with these safeguards?” Bridges said in her released statement.

Wildomar City Manager Gary Nordquist did not provide a comment for this story, saying instead the legal dispute was between a developer and a resident.

As part of the settlement agreement, Sunbelt Communities has agreed to incur legal fees for Bridges, Burkett, as well as the city, and it has agreed to defend any challenges to the agreement.

“This means city council members and their usual clique of political surrogates or supporters will have no grounds to harp on how this lawsuit cost either the City of Wildomar or the taxpayers any money -- because it didn’t and it won’t,” Bridges said.

Under the terms of the settlement agreement, the legal fees Sunbelt will reimburse total $30,450.

Meanwhile, another legal complaint on the project is pending, that one brought forward by Citizens for Quality Development. It challenges the project on issues pertaining to the California Environmental Quality Act.

Bill Lo of Sunbelt Communities said he's confident most of the issues brought forward by Citizens for Quality Development can be resolved, and he expressed relief that his team was able to reach a settlement agreement in the petition brought forward by Bridges and Burkett.

"It is an amicable settlement," he said. "I'm glad it's behind us and we're looking forward to moving ahead."

Martha L. Bridges December 06, 2013 at 12:57 PM
John, I do believe The Farm will have to get a long term plan going to get rid of their archaic, over-capacity waste system, but we purposely left that issue out of our lawsuit as it is a completely separate issue. However the other lawsuit about the Oak Creek Canyon project brought by Citizens for Quality Development addresses the potential of contamination and toxicity issues with The Farm's spray fields. It also addresses the need for buffers between the new homes and the existing larger parcels with ranch homes, and a number of serious CEQA issues. __________________________________________________________ Both our settlement terms and conditions and the other lawsuit have the potential of delaying this project for years, and the Wildomar budget for 2014-2015, which counted on revenue from building permits and property taxes from Oak Creek Canyon will obviously need to be adjusted because of these delays.
Smalltown Boy December 07, 2013 at 01:41 AM
As one of the so-called Wierdomar sheep-goons, I'm glad the citizens don't have to pay for the lawsuit. I'm also glad the EVMWD issue will be resolved. It is good that Martha was willing to take responsibility and the risk for this. Someday in the future, the real victory will be when city, citizen, and developer partner together for good quality of life, without lawsuits. We are a new city and we are experiencing the growing pains.
Gil Rasmussen December 07, 2013 at 09:43 AM
However, one must be aware of the "cost" to the elected and appointed officials, in terms of political embarrassment, for their failure to put an end to their staff's ineptitude. That's why they are elected and appointed in the first place, 'cept in Wildomar, they are elected and appointed, and celebrated for their support of inbred incompetence.
Roberto December 07, 2013 at 04:05 PM
This reminds me of the movie Deliverance. Time to find someone who knows how to deal with these Dog & Pony Show snake oil salesman.


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