Perris Suit Escalates Border Tussle with Neighboring Menifee

Connor Forbes
Connor Forbes
9 Min Read

Perris Suit

By Jim Forbes, Publisher

Neighbors quarrel. That is a universal fact of life. From nation-states to the people next door, and everything in between.

In the highly competitive growth industry of the Inland Empire, and Riverside County specifically, it’s municipal human nature to compete against one another, in efforts to attract the best businesses, amenities and housing. 

The sales pitches run from tax break incentives to streamlining development red tape, while promoting best schools, parks, and quality of life.

When the competition is across the region or county, that’s one thing. When it’s a shared border, well that presents a bunch more variables. And that’s the situation the Cities of Perris and Menifee, find themselves in right now.

Menifee sued Perris last year and Perris responded in kind last week.

The focus is on Ethanac Road, a southern borderline for Perris, northern borderline for Menifee. The twain meets at the dividing line, with dueling interests on either side. The dispute is far removed from their individual city centers, lots of open space on both flanks, different zoning, triggering competing concepts for development. 

The Menifee vision for its northern edge is zoned “EDC”, Economic Development Corridor. Traditional industrial including warehousing and “maybe” some residential interspersed. 

Across the road to the north, Perris’s plans include the planned community  “GVSP,” Green Valley Specific Plan, a 4,200 plus single and multi-family residential development on more than 700 acres. On the remaining 500-plus acres of the plot, planning calls for open space, business, commercial, industrial, schools, and recreational uses. 

And therein lies the issue. Two cities, two visions and one 4-lane road separating them.

For those old enough to remember when there were “smoking sections” on airplanes, (yes, dozens of mini-fires 30-thousand feet in the air) there was no effective separation between the smoking and no-smoking section. Everyone was breathing the same air.

Two very different communities separated by a four-lane road, are likewise, all sharing the same environmental factors from traffic to air.

A year ago, Perris “de-designated” its side of Ethanac Road as no longer a truck route, which would naturally impact the industrial plans of Menifee. So, the south filed suit against the north. 

A Riverside Superior Court tossed the truck ban in January, stating that if Perris completely owned the land that the road navigates, it could impose the ban. It doesn’t. Perris and Menifee literally share the road. And so there is a bit of road rage. The remainder of that dispute remains in litigation.

Then a year to the month later, last week, the north, Perris, returned the salvo, filing suit against Menifee and its approval of a dual warehouse project on its side of the road.

The nuts and bolts of the dueling suits will be decided with the fingerprints of the city’s, county and state agencies and the court(s) – some, maybe all – on the final resolution.

There will be considerable public statements tossed out with terms such as CEQA, IS, Scoping, MND, EIR and the like, dominating the lexicon. 

For those who live to navigate the bramble of regulatory jargon, this is a useful glossary.

CEQA is the California Environmental Quality Act, the guiding bible for development in California for a half-century, ever since the then-Governor Ronald Reagan put pen to bill in 1970.

It is a macro statewide approach to development, in which all “discretionary” projects must pass muster, and not present a negative environmental impact. That includes human well-being.

“IS,” is the Initial Study that a developer presents the governing agency of a project, a self-defined proposal.

That trigger’s “Scoping,” whereby the public and entities from every stripe apply a magnifying glass, a scope of the proposal and register their thoughts and evidence during a public comment period.  

MND, is a “Mitigated Negative Declaration” whereby the governing body may declare that any “negative” environmental impact identified in the IS and Scoping, can be modified, or “mitigated” and there is no need for an EIR.

The “EIR” is an Environmental Impact Report, often the bane of developers but the hoped-for holy grail for opponents of said development. They are far more comprehensive, time-consuming, and costly than an IS followed by an MND. 

It’s another bite at the apple for opponents to modify or defeat a project, but that’s not the purpose. It is designed to ensure best standards for the protection of the environment, wildlife and human health and safety included. Whew! Still with us?

So, regarding the Tussle of Ethanac Road, The Menifee City Council, in a 4-1 vote last month, approved the new warehousing project on its northern border off the southern side of Ethanac Rd.

Perris participated in the process for more than a year, attempting to mitigate the proposal, but was unsuccessful. Its suit essentially alleges the studies supporting the project are flawed and is appealing to the state and court to order an EIR. Not surprisingly, Menifee offers a similar assessment of Perris’s stated facts, indicating they are flawed.

Both claim the other is in serious violation of CEQA.

In response to reportorial questions, both stand by issued statements, begging off providing answers to lawsuit-related queries, due to “active litigation.”

“The City of Perris’ new lawsuit is retribution,” Menifee’s statement declares, referring to the suit Menifee itself filed a year ago. Adding, “The City of Menifee has attempted to design the project as a “good neighbor” to the City of Perris and will continue to do so.”

Perris Mayor Michael M. Vargas issued his own statement. “The City of Perris is responsible for the overall well-being and safety of the residents we serve. The lawsuit filed against the City of Menifee is a direct reflection of this commitment to our residents.” 

But this micro example illustrates the macro issue across the region, how to manage the explosion of growth. Burgeoning commerce begets burgeoning needs.

With the benefits, come the demand for solutions. Regional bliss does not negate parochial interests. Neighbors quarrel.

This publication endeavors to shed insight on the coming challenges. Stories related to the movement and storage of goods will be on its radar. As told through the impact this has on the people who call this home. 

Part of this growing landscape is the proliferation of belching diesels carrying out the necessary chores of keeping a nation and world supplied. Those emissions cause health consequences, to the drivers, freight handlers and all who live and work in their path. 

In the pandemic year of 2020, the State of California passed new regulations aimed at seriously reducing those truck emissions and the Feds followed with their own plan two years later.

Not surprisingly, truck manufacturers filed suit. Competing interests.

Last week, the California Air Resources Board and the Truck and Engine Manufacturers Association, along with major manufacturers, reached a deal.

All are ready to move on, getting some but not all of what they want. Mutually deciding to step out of court, stroll into the future, understanding compromise is more expedient, less expensive and the likely outcome in the end.  (See Story Page 9). Maybe there’s a blueprint for the ‘Tussle of Ethanac Rd.’

Perris Suit
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