NORCO — Responding to residents' petitions, the City Council Wednesday night reversed a controversial decision that would have allowed about 135 new homes on vacant federal land.
The council voted unanimously to rescind a pair of May 7 actions designating the 80-acre tract for homes on 20,000-square-foot lots.
With Wednesday night's votes, the council avoided putting the issue to a citywide vote in November. Instead, the city will include the 80-acre area in a broad planning and environmental study it will commission for the Interstate 15 corridor.
The would-be developer, Deane Financial Inc. of Corona, will pay for its portion of the study, said City Manager Ronald E. Cano.
Once that study is done, the council may consider again amending the city's general land-use plan and zoning map to allow homes on the central Norco tract, which is owned by the Navy.
Deane Financial bid $1.475 million in February to buy the land from the federal government.
Company officials said they want to build houses there consistent with Norco's traditional minimum lot size of 20,000 square feet. Nearby homes sit on similar half-acre lots, on which residents are allowed to keep animals. But neighboring residents didn't want the open land developed at all and circulated petitions.
"It's in our interest to take an overall planning approach (for the open areas along the planned freeway route) . . . rather than a piecemeal approach," Cano said in recommending the council rescind its earlier actions.
City officials originally had been strong supporters of the proposed development, which lies within Norco's redevelopment area, because it would have provided a property tax windfall of up to $2 million annually for the city.