Senior community nixes industrial development for more residential

Residents of Westmont Village push owner off plan for 1.1M sf of distribution warehouses near Riverside

Westmont's Andy Plant and Westmont Village Westmont Living, iStock)
Westmont's Andy Plant and Westmont Village Westmont Living, iStock)

A retirement community in the Inland Empire has shredded plans to build 1.1 million-square-feet of warehouses after residents raised concerns about toxic fumes, noise and light pollution.

Westmont Village, a senior living community on 155 acres southwest of March Air Reserve Base near Riverside, nixed its plans for three warehouses to be built on vacant land, the Riverside Press-Enterprise reported. Its owner will likely build homes instead.

“We’re long term committed to Westmont Village and we don’t want to create any long-term issues that are going to negatively affect the community,” Andy Plant, president of the La Jolla-based Westmont Living, owner of the village, told the newspaper. “At the same time, we’re trying to figure out how the land can be utilized.

“At this point, it seems the path forward is residential.”

The move by Westmont Village to scrub its warehouse plans comes as cities within the nation’s distribution hub express concerns about the consequences of large warehouses.

Once known as Air Force Village West, Westmont Village sits on land that was part of March Air Force Base before it downsized to an air reserve base in 1996, leaving what some said was a 4,500-acre ghost town.

Westmont Living wanted the March Joint Powers Authority, the public agency with land-use authority over the ex-military property, to rezone vacant land to the west and south of Westmont for industrial use.

The company planned to construct a 1 million-square-foot warehouse and three other logistics buildings ranging in size from 43,332 square feet to 83,551 square feet.

The land is near the Ben Clark Training Center, which trains law enforcement personnel, not far from Amazon and UPS distribution centers.

Plant said he pursued industrial development after listening to officials’ concerns that building homes near the retirement village would lead to noise complaints. But then Westmont residents pushed back – saying the warehouses would bring toxic fumes from diesel trucks and ruin their quality of life with noise and light pollution.

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“Health effects aside — the noise, the lights — I definitely don’t see how I or the others on that street … would be able to peacefully exist here,” Westmont resident Jo Crosbie said in February.

After hearing residents’ concerns and getting feedback from the training center and the office of Riverside County Supervisor Kevin Jeffries, who represents Westmont and sits on the March JPA board, Westmont Living now plans to build homes, with a berm buffering them from the training center.

Plant said he’s not sure how many homes will be built on the land or whether they’ll be age restricted like homes in Westmont. He added it will take his civil engineering firm six to nine months to assess the homes’ environmental impact, with construction at least a year away.

The unincorporated region is still rife with warehouses driven by strong e-commerce demand.

Not far from Westmont Village, more than 1.8 million square feet of warehouse space — roughly 32 football fields — is planned for vacant land near Riverside’s Orangecrest and Mission Grove neighborhoods.

A 1.9 million-square-foot Target distribution center is being built between the March air base and the 215 Freeway.

While warehouses employ thousands and anchor the Inland economy, critics say they’re not worth the air pollution, truck traffic and other ills associated with warehouses, which are moving closer to homes and schools.

This month, the Inland Empire city of Colton extended its moratorium on distribution warehouses, while Ontario, Redlands Jurupa Valley and San Bernardino considered similar bans.

[Riverside Press-Enterprise] – Dana Bartholomew

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