A Doug's Life: Controlled Development

From what I can tell in the six weeks I've been here, Menifee offers an attractive mix of modern comfort and rural charm.

I've said that before. Now the question is, will it stay that way?

According to census data, Menifee's population in 2010 was 77,519. That's considerably more than the mere hundreds who were living here on ranches before Sun City was first developed in the early 1960s. It's a dramatic increase from the approximately 9,000 who lived here in 1990. It's even a lot more than the 42,064 reported in the 2000 census, after the great migration began.

It's also roughly the crowd count in the left-turn lane from Newport Road to Haun during rush hour -- or so it seems.

Is that growth? You bet it is. Is that good for the local economy? Of course. Why do you think new businesses keep popping up in local marketplaces, while a renewed housing market spurs plans for more housing construction?

I'm not saying that's bad. It's part of what brought me here. By joining the mass exodus east from the Los Angeles suburbs, I'm as guilty as anyone of taking advantage of more affordable housing and a lot more open space.

Let's just make sure some of that open space remains.

In his last public appearance here before leaving Menifee's Third District because of recent redistricting actions, Riverside County Supervisor Jeff Stone predicted that "Menifee will be the next future economic powerhouse in Riverside County. It has the potential to grow twice the size of Murrieta or Temecula."

The prospect of such growth is thrilling in some ways and frightening in others. Pardon me for being a bit selfish, but can you hold off just a few more years before you turn Menifee into the next Rancho Cucamonga? I haven't hit retirement age yet.

I'm not proud to admit this, but I want it all. I want to live somewhere I can sit out at night under a blanket of stars, but I don't want to be elbow-to-elbow with my neighbors to do it. I want to get up in the morning and breathe the fresh air -- and I actually like it when it's mixed with the smell of horses.

I like having somewhere like the Countryside Marketplace to serve my every shopping need. I would rather not have one on every other corner, however. I love the floor plans and yard space of these nearly new houses, but I also like the peaceful feeling of a walk past open pastures.

The way I look at it, Menifee is in an envious, yet challenging, position. To loosely quote that famous line from the movie Field of Dreams: "If you build it, they will come." We know the area will continue to attract new residents, and of course they will all be as nice as I am, so the old-timers should welcome them. But when is enough really enough?

Fortunately, there are wise and dedicated people in the community who are working to ensure things don't get out of hand.

City council member Tom Fuhrman speaks about the importance of controlled development -- in other words, legislation and ordinances to ensure that all the "little people" aren't pushed off their ranches to turn every square inch of land into houses and condominiums.

Local rancher Lynn Mattocks, a member of the Riverside County Trails Committee, works with other concerned citizens to preserve the natural beauty of the area and identify multi-purpose trails for responsible recreational use.

When I wrote a couple weeks ago about the serenity and open spaces of Menifee, a former co-worker of mine responded to say that, since he moved to Temecula in 2000, the population had more than doubled, to more than 100,000. "It won't take long for Menifee to join the party," he quipped.

Maybe he's right. Perhaps you can't stop progress. But maybe we can throw a lasso around it and rein it in a bit. There's got to be a happy medium there somewhere.


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