Calimesa Planning

The 76 gas station in Calimesa is now open.

Swimming pools and medical offices will now be easier to build and establish, respectively, in Calimesa after the city council approved a zone text amendment last week at its meeting.

The unanimous approval follows recommendations from staff and the Planning Commission at its September meeting.

The ordinance to the zone text amendment allows a five-foot minimum rear-yard setback for swimming pools, pool equipment and open structures, such as patios. Previously, it was a minimum of 10 feet, and in some zoning districts as much as 25 feet.

“The first item that (the zone text amendment) seeks to modify is currently we have an exception for side-yard setbacks that allows open structures, such as patios, swimming pools with pool equipment,” said Planning Manager Kelly Lucia, who presented the item at the Oct. 5 meeting. “No matter what the setback is in whatever zone you are in you can reduce that down to five feet for the side yard for those open structures. We don’t currently have a similar provision that allows those same open structures to be located within five feet of the rear property line.

“If somebody would like to build a swimming pool in their backyard, theoretically, it needs to be either 10, 15 or 25 feet from their rear property line.”

For years, Lucia said, the city has received requests for swimming pools and their equipment, but they have had to deny permits to homeowners and builders because of the rear-yard setback.

“It is my opinion that there won’t be any negative or detrimental effects to allowing this for rear-yard setbacks as well,” Lucia said.

The second part of the change to the zone text amendment relates to the permissibility of medical uses in three commercial zones and the three downtown business districts. Those zones currently prohibit medical uses specifically for humans.

There are some existing medical-use services located in the three commercial or downtown business districts in Calimesa. Lucia explained those services are considered legal nonconforming, meaning they were established under applicable zoning and building codes that are no longer current.

“We seem to be stifling medical uses through the function of zoning,” she said. “This ordinance seeks to change that to make those a permitted use in any downtown or commercial business district.”

Husband and wife, Nathan and Grace Carlson, who share a dental practice in the Crown Village shopping center on Calimesa Boulevard, spoke about their frustration with not being able to expand their office space because of the medical-use restrictions.

They are already struggling to meet the needs of their growing client base in their 1,200-square-foot office and would like to expand next door, and now they also must keep their patients socially distanced because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It doesn’t really work out as well with our smaller size that we have now,” Nathan said. “An expansion would really be useful in terms of our growing community here.”

Councilmembers all agreed the changes should be made.

“First, on the setback issue” said Councilman Larry Smith, “it seems to me that naturally if you are allowing the equipment at five foot on side yards, five foot on back yards makes the same sense.”

“The medical ordinance change is long overdue,” he said, continuing. “Everybody, especially with our community, we have a huge senior population, would love to have medical facilities close to home.

“I am very much in support of moving both of these items forward.”

Mayor Pro Tem Linda Molina said she was happy to see the change to the zone text amendment on the agenda.

 “We do have families here and we do want to encourage other businesses to come here,” she said, “and I think this is a great opportunity to get some new businesses, but especially to satisfy the loyalty of our long-term businesses.”

When it was clear that councilmen Jeff Cervantez and Ed Clark were also in agreement, Mayor Bill Davis asked, “Is everybody a happy camper?”

 “You can’t imagine how many people you made happy with that one, just for pools,” Davis said to staff.

Summerwind Trails phases sold

As part of the consent calendar, the sale of Phases 2 through 5 of the Summerwind Trails residential development from the San Gorgonio Land LLC to JPMB Investments LLC were approved.

Included in the sales agreement are funding and construction oversight of the expansion of the Cherry Valley Boulevard Interchange.

Mayor Davis assured council the sales agreement had been thoroughly reviewed by staff.

“The city would be protected in all aspects. It isn’t just a done deal,” he said.

Council position on resolution

Mayor Pro Tem Molina requested direction from councilmembers regarding a resolution of the General Assembly of the League of California Cities to amend a section of the Communications Decency Act of 1996.

The amendment would require social media companies to remove materials that promote criminal activities.

While Calimesa councilmembers understood why there might be a need to restrict those types of material on social media, they were uncomfortable with other aspects of the resolution and directed Molina, the city’s voting delegate, to decide against it.

“To me,” Davis said, “the words social media means it is automatically open to the public. I don’t like the fact the government, you know they are looking for a way to trace the perpetrators of anything wrong … If they could actually locate somebody who is helping to work riots and things like that as far as maneuvering people around, that’s the only good I see out of this. Other than that, I don’t like it.”

“In my opinion, it feels too much like government overreach,” said Smith.

Molina admitted that many voting delegates were concerned about how illegal versus legal activity was going to be defined.

“That was not clear to many people and so that is what a lot of people had a problem with and why they felt they couldn’t make a decision,” she said.

Cervantez agreed.

“I think I would be in opposition to it as well,” he said. “I think that the language around criminal activity is really vague. I think it is much too vague the way that it is worded and not descriptive enough. I worry that it would give too much power.”

76 gas station opening

Councilman Clark asked City Manager Bonnie Johnson about the opening of the 76 fueling station, near the County Line Road offramp.

“Is there an open date for the new gas station? Have they announced when they might open?” he asked.

“It is getting closer,” Johnson said. It’s literally any day now.”

As of this printing, the 76 station has indeed opened.

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