On April 11, 2017, the Riverside County Board of Supervisors authorized the preparation of a new Winchester Community Plan through General Plan Amendment (GPA) No. 1207. Riverside County’s existing General Plan land use policies for most of this area are articulated primarily through the Harvest Valley/Winchester Area Plan. The County’s existing General Plan land use policies for the southwestern portion of the community, specifically that area located between Briggs and Leon Roads, and between Newport and Scott Roads, are primarily articulated through the Sun City/Menifee Valley Area Plan. Both area plans were adopted in 2003, as part of the new countywide General Plan adopted at that time in conjunction with the Riverside County Integrated Project.
The community of Winchester has been anticipating this major update to the County’s land use plan for its community. Several important planning studies and actions have taken place in recent years that will assist the County in preparing the Winchester Community Plan, including the Winchester Land Use Study, the Riverside County 2013-2021 Housing Element (of the General Plan), and Caltrans’ Record of Decision regarding the preferred route of the Highway 79 realignment project.
In September 2012, with funding provided by the County’s Economic Development Agency, the conceptual Winchester Land Use Study was completed by Tierra Verde Planning. This study involved expansive public outreach and public input. The Winchester Land Use Study has provided and will continue to provide guidance as land use planning options are developed for the community.
On December 6, 2016, the Board of Supervisors adopted GPA No. 1122 and Change of Zone (CZ) No. 7902, thereby adopting the County’s 2013-2021 “5th Cycle” Housing Element, and as part of that project, amended the Harvest Valley/Winchester Area Plan to establish land use designations for nine MUA (Mixed-Use Area) and one HHDR (Highest Density Residential) neighborhood areas located in and immediately adjacent to the historic core of Winchester. In addition, these MUA and HHDR neighborhood areas were also rezoned to the County’s new MU (Mixed-Use) and R-7 (Highest Density Residential) Zones, respectively. Together, these neighborhood areas will provide the basis for the future development of a more intense, mixed-use, and vibrant and walkable core for Winchester.
On December 16, 2016, Caltrans (California Department of Transportation) concluded several years of studies and environmental reviews as it signed its Record of Decision establishing Highway 79 Realignment Project Alternative “1br” as its preferred alternative for the highway realignment project, as it moves forward. In the future, upon its completion, realigned Highway 79, which would also up upgraded to a limited-access, four-lane expressway, will provide improved circulation and traffic capacity to accommodate growth in Winchester and surrounding communities.
GPA No. 1207 includes several areas in the Winchester community where General Plan Foundation Component Amendments would occur. When the countywide General Plan was adopted in 2003, it included major new policy provisions to assist in the longer term protection of many open space, wildlife habitat, and agricultural areas, and rural communities from potentially incompatible, more intense urban development, without careful, long-term planning. In order to accomplish this objective, the General Plan Certainty System was established, and in accordance with this system, all lands in the unincorporated area of the County were placed within one of five categories, or Foundation Components: Community Development, Rural Community, Rural, Agriculture, and Open Space. Policies were adopted that permit general plan amendments between land use designations within each Foundation Component up to four times per year, but limit amendments between Foundation Components to eight-year cycles. Late in 2016, the County’s General Plan Advisory Committee and the Planning Commission recommended that the Foundation Component amendments proposed through GPA No. 1207 be initiated, and as noted previously, the Board of Supervisors acted to initiate the amendments this past April.