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Corona Keeps Option for Future Freeway

The City Council imposes a building moratorium on 500 acres for a possible link between Riverside, Orange counties.

August 21, 2003|Hanah Cho and Seema Mehta | Times Staff Writers

The Corona City Council voted unanimously Wednesday to impose a building moratorium on 500 acres that local transportation officials consider a prime location for a possible freeway that would link Riverside and Orange counties.

City leaders said the land near Interstate 15 and Cajalco Road is in a good location to build an alternative to the traffic-choked Riverside Freeway. A new freeway could also link up with a new 40-mile, east-west thoroughfare between Corona and Hemet that is in the planning stages.

"There is no single issue that plagues our region more than traffic," said Councilman Darrell Talbert.

After a 45-minute public hearing, the council voted 5 to 0 to enact a 45-day building moratorium, which will probably be extended to two years.

The freeway proposal, one of many transportation alternatives being studied to create a new corridor between the counties, would connect Interstate 15 to the Eastern toll road in Orange County, and would include a tunnel through the Santa Ana Mountains. The proposal is the most prominently discussed among local politicians in Riverside County.

Mayor Jeff Bennett said a moratorium is necessary to prevent houses and commercial properties from being built on the land only to have government agencies possibly condemn them in a few years to make way for a freeway.

"That would be far worse than what we plan to do today," Bennett said before the vote.

The developer who was planning to build 885 homes as well as commercial and industrial facilities on the former grapefruit orchard opposed the city's action.

"We are not part of the problem; we are part of the solution," said Mike Kerr, president of Bluestone Communities in Newport Beach. The developer said his company began its planning process two years ago and spent "a considerable amount of money."

As part of the ordinance, the City Council directed its staff to work with Bluestone to alleviate Kerr's concerns and any other issues.

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