Developer of Empty Dealership Wants to Take Proposal to the Voters

Theory R Properties wants to convert the vacant property into a commercial center. Now that the Rancho Santa Margarita City Council has said no, the voters may get a chance to weigh in.

The former Nissan dealership in Rancho Santa Margarita. Patch photo credit: Martin Henderson.
The former Nissan dealership in Rancho Santa Margarita. Patch photo credit: Martin Henderson.

Having failed to convince the City Council that the former Nissan dealership should be rezoned for a commercial center, the owners have filed a notice they will take their case directly to the registered voters in Rancho Santa Margarita.

“The public interest is not served by waiting around forever for one of the auto manufacturers to change its mind and decide to open another new car dealership on the former Nissan dealership property in RSM,” says the notice, filed with the city Feb. 13.

Theory R Properties bought the former Family Nissan site in 2012. It wants to rezone the 4.75-acre property to allow a retail center, anchored by 24 Hour Fitness.

Both the Planning Commission and the City Council have passed, relying on staff recommendations that say even waiting years for another dealership to move in would be worth the extra tax dollars that type of business generates in a short period of time.

So now Theory R Principal Joe Daichendt, who signed the notice of intent, wants to make his case directly to the public.

A zone change would “enable a long vacant and underutilized property in a prominent location of the city be returned to productive use,” says the proposed ordinance. It would also “eliminate the blight,” supply jobs and generate tax revenues.

On Friday, the city attorney signed off on the title of the ordinance, as it will appear on a future ballot. It is to be called:

An ordinance of the people of the city of Rancho Santa Margarita, California, changing the zoning classification of the former Nissan automobile dealership property from auto center/auto center overlay to commercial general/auto center overlay and amending the city’s general plan to confirm the property’s general plan land use designation is general commercial.

“The November ballot is what we’re going for, the general election,” Joe Daichendt said.


Shawn Gordon March 16, 2014 at 10:36 PM
Hal, there is about 10 different gyms in the city, the 24 hour fitness does need upkeep, but IF they were to move to a new facility, and they have not expressed any interest in moving, the Theory R people found out their lease is up for renewal this summer and just put them on their paperwork. Anyway, IF they were to move, they would no doubt make this an upgraded gym, which means everyone who is using it with a regular membership would then be required to pay more for an upgraded membership. Not to mention, this doesn't generate any new revenue, it is just moving a business from one place to another.
Duane Gamble March 17, 2014 at 06:35 PM
So I am starting to see a variety of desires and concerns from several people some who are against a public vote and others that want to be heard, it seems the fairest way to decide things is to have a full on campaign with both sides making their case and letting the voters decide. I continue to be surprised at the comments that seem to give no credence to property owner rights?!? I guess from the sidelines with no real skin in the game somebody like Jack can afford to take the wait and see approach for another 4 or more years and then if by chance an auto dealer did come we could make up the sales tax in one year, that's a very big "if" and at no out of pocket costs to Jack or the City, but many millions of $'s of lost opportunity costs to RSM residents. I believe the staff report stated that there would be 250 jobs both part and full time. So for 5 years the site has generated zero revenues and zero jobs and for less than a year a handful of jobs for a few thousand square feet of UHaul rentals and nominal revenues on a what 5 acre site? If the city is so hell bent that an auto dealer wants to come now or will eventually come then name the dealer and start negotiating, REZONE or take some of the one year equivalent of operating budget of reserves that has accrued (that the former Mayor Beall talks about so much it would make for a good drinking game!) and buy out the property owner at the fair market value and then the city can sit on it for as many years as they want hoping against hope for an auto dealer to pick RSM over the Irvine Auto Center. Talk is cheap council majority! Let the voters decide!
James Skorheim March 17, 2014 at 06:41 PM
I am with you Duane, I cannot believe the city is so vigorously trying to silence the voters of RSM. Typical government, so much smarter than the constituents.
Shawn Gordon March 17, 2014 at 07:18 PM
Two things Duane. First, Theory-R went in there with no intent of putting in an auto dealership, they expected to get a zone change, they've admitted this in public on a number of occasions. they didn't come in to this as an honest broker, they are strip mall landlords, that's what they know and what they do. They have yet to present anything cogent with regard to the site that would be anything fresh or new in the city, everything proposed is just more of what we already have too much of and are constantly failing. Theory-R also got the property for a song, I think it was 4 or 5 times under market value. I don't blame them for wanting to make a huge profit, but they've had offers and not responded to any of them, you can get that all from the publicly available report, I was at the city council meeting that they presented it at. The petition to put it on the ballot IS in fact a vote, if you're for it, then sign the petition. You're acting as though someone with a contrary position is suppressing the rights of others. I have seen one interesting idea for the site, and that is a next generation YMCA with really nice facilities and maybe some satellite stores that would be complimentary to it, you could even work a small bowling alley in the mix, like 8 lanes or something. At least that would be different and interesting.
Something Special Cateirng Inc. March 20, 2014 at 10:18 PM
But we will never know unless the people get to vote to get it ON the ballot so we can then vote to have the city rezone or at least take another look at it. That's the whole point of the ballot measure isn't it? Lets get together and work on getting the word out to see what kind of businesses are willing to come out here. Who is out searching for those businesses now? Being proactive seems to be an avenue that's missing


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