On Tuesday, May 18, Highland Planning Commission, after an exhaustive 5-hour review, recommended for city council approval several amendments to the Greenspot Village and Marketplace Specific Plan and the conditional use permits (CUP), design review applications, alcohol sales licenses, landscaping plan and sign program for a mixed use (commercial and residential) development within the specific plan.

The Greenspot Crossings development will now go before Highland City Council for final approval during the June 8 meeting.

The 20.37-acre development is the second project within the Greenspot Village and Marketplace Specific Plan to be submitted to the city since the original development plan failed after the specific plan’s approval in 2013. Since then the specific plan’s area ⎯ the “Golden Triangle” bordered by Greenspot, State Route 210 and Boulder Avenue ⎯ has been split and sold to three developers. The first development, Rexco Development’s 200-unit residential project on the east end, was approved in September 2020 and has begun grading activities.

The Greenspot Crossings area is owned by TREH Partners, owner-developer of the Lowe’s shopping center on the south side of Greenspot, and takes up the western portion of the specific plan’s 104-acre footprint, on the north side of Greenspot Road just east of State Route 210.

TREH purchased the property in 2020 and is pursuing an incidental take permit for San Bernardino kangaroo rat for the remaining acreage to the north so it can enter escrow for that parcel.

TREH’s proposed development includes two planning areas ⎯ approximately 11.021 acres of commercial on the west and about 8.793 acres of residential complex on the northeastern portion of the property.

The commercial portion is comprised of approximately 85,316 square feet of commercial building space, including: a 11,877-square-foot, eight-pump gas station with convenience store and car wash; a 37,000-square-foot anchor store; a 19,000-square-foot major store; a 6,000-square-foot store; a 5,600-square-foot store; three 2,500-to-3,000-square-foot stores with drive-through; a 2,024-square-foot store; and a total of 362 parking stalls. There will also be two outdoor plazas suitable for outdoor dining.

The residential complex will include four types of residences totaling 200 units. The plan has 14 multi-family buildings, a stand-alone clubhouse and fitness center, a swimming pool, a wading pool, an outdoor kids zone with artificial turf, a dog park, a basketball half-court, a pickleball court and 380 parking spaces (including attached garages and 142 open spaces). The residential buildings will include attached two-story single-family townhomes, two-story multi-family condominiums, two-story studios and three-story multi-family apartment buildings.

The residential and commercial buildings are designed in Spanish and Monterey styles.

When submitting the Greenspot Crossings CUP and design review documents, TREH also requested several amendments be made to the specific plan.

Those amendments included an adjustment to the boundaries of the parcels within TREH’s project, splitting the project area from four parcels to eight, and the removal of a “village paseo” through the project. Housing density will remain unchanged and the project will have a total of 17 percent open space, more than the 10 percent required by the specific plan.

TREH proposes to replace the paseo with 140,000 square feet of open space.

According to Robinson, the paseo was first designed in 2005, and, with rising homelessness issues, would today attract many problems.

In addition to these amendments, TREH requested additional alcohol licenses for the commercial portion of the project, to bring the total to eight licenses ⎯ three off-sale licenses (for alcohol to be consumed off-site) and five on-sale licenses (for sale of alcohol to be consumed on-site). According to Tom Robertson of TREH Partners, the licenses can be used to attract tenants such as grocery stores, restaurants and the gas station convenience store.

About a ladder truck

During the meeting, Robinson also made two additional requests, that a condition of use requiring an easement for utilities from neighboring developments to cross the project area be removed and that a condition requiring TREH to pay $550,000 annually to the city for the staffing of a ladder fire engine be removed.

According to Robinson, the ladder truck condition was negotiated as part of the original Greenspot Village and Marketplace development when the specific plan was first designed and approved by the city and was part of why that development failed.

Glenn Elssmann, a developer who helped draft the original Greenspot Village and Marketplace development, confirmed this during public comment, stating that the 2008 recession and the expense of the ladder truck condition helped kill the original development. (Elssmann owns and plans to develop the third and central planning area within the specific plan.)

In 2014, the Highland City Council denied a previous development application for the property when the developer would not agree to the ladder truck condition. The city council felt that the city could not provide sufficient fire services to three-story buildings without a ladder truck.

Robinson agreed that the city needs a ladder truck but stated that it needs the truck whether he builds a three-story building or not.

“This is a condition that isn’t fair at all, for any developer,” Robinson said. “We’re going to bring in a tremendous amount of property tax to an area that, right now, is county flood control, so there’s no taxes going to the city. We’re going to bring a tremendous amount of residents, sales taxes, use taxes, property taxes and gas taxes. It’s not the responsibility of an individual, small developer to buy something for the entire city.”

Robinson added that TREH would also be paying $6.674 million to the city in development impact fees in addition to its property taxes, including two fees specifically for equipment and fire services.

“We can’t build the project with this $550,000 condition in place, and the city has all the power to remove that condition,” Robinson said.

This condition would hamper the developer’s ability to get a loan to build the project, Robinson added.

City staff informed Robinson and the Planning Commission that because removing the ladder truck condition would be a major financial decision the commission does not have the authority to alter the condition. Robinson’s request will have to go before the city council.

Possible tenants

While Robinson was not ready to discuss the possible tenants TREH has lined up for the commercial development, he pointed out that TREH has a history of bringing quality tenants that add to their communities. He noted that TREH brought In-N-Out Burger to Highland, the first Chick-fil-a to California and the first Sprouts to the Inland Empire.

“I think it’s really important to get a really good anchor, but one of the things driving that is the residential,” Robinson said. “We need the residential. The Mediterra development on Greenspot and the Rexco development really helped us and these apartments help. When the next developer comes forward with his project we’ll be supporting him with our residential. We need quality housing to get quality retailers.”

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