8 Hours Later, City Won't Rezone Nissan Site

Marathon meeting ends after 3 a.m. with City Council unwilling to give up on the idea a dealer—and the tax revenue it would bring—will never come to Rancho Santa Margarita.

Council members listen to Joe Daichendt's case for rezoning the former Family Nissan site. Credit/Martin Henderson
Council members listen to Joe Daichendt's case for rezoning the former Family Nissan site. Credit/Martin Henderson

By Martin Henderson

Long story short, the City voted to keep the zoning of the former Family Nissan auto dealership just the way it is. 

The longest city council meeting in Rancho Santa Margarita history finally broke up at 3:15 a.m. on Thursday morning, more than eight hours after Mayor Carol Gamble dropped the gavel on its 7 p.m. start.

The meeting had a little bit of everything. There was sharp questioning, sharp answers and sharp opinions. There were pointed comments no fewer than a half-dozen times.
But in the end, the council voted 3-1 to retain the zoning that exists for auto related uses. Jesse Petrilla had the dissenting vote. Steve Baric was absent because of an illness. 

Having gone through 1,500 pages of evidence supporting the rezoning and opposing the rezoning—City Staff recommended opposition to the rezoning request by Theory R Properties to Commercial-General—Gamble, Tony Beall and Brad McGirr came to the same conclusion. With the country still not fully recovered from the recession and brighter days apparently ahead, they were unwilling to scrap the master plan envisioned by Richard Reese, who designed the community. 

McGirr said he might in two years look back and see the Theory R team was correct, but the recovery needed to play out—which was the recommendation of The London Group the city's expert who studied the viability of the site to remain an Auto Zone.

The strong recovery by auto dealers in Rancho Santa Margarita—Honda, Ford and Toyota—factored into McGirr's decision. And, he said, if the Auto Zone Overlay wasn't right for the site, which has been named Rancho Canyon, he wasn't sure what the best use for the site was. The prevailing theory from the dais was that it wasn't with a 24 Hour Fitness as the anchor tenant.

"When I weigh the numbers, the community is better served having an auto center," McGirr said. "I think it's something we need to give time to."

All agreed, including Theory R principal Joe Daichendt, the best use for the site is an auto dealership. 

Daichendt and his team tried to prove Theory R made a legitimate effort to market the site to auto dealers and manufacturers, and that no one was coming. And no one is coming. Ever. 

But late in the meeting, Gamble held up an iPad with the website of Theory R's marketing man, Jay Larue, and pointed out the Rancho Canyon site wasn't even listed—either as a site for an auto dealer or a retailer. 

There was much discussion, too, about Daichendt's designs early on to rezone the property and his "calculated risk" of purchasing the dealership site knowing it wasn't zoned for commercial uses. 

Adding some difficulty to Daichendt's argument was a purchase offer made on the site by Bob Carmendy, general manager and partner of RSM Honda, the Rancho Canyon neighbor to the east. Daichendt dismissed that offer as "disingenuous." Beall also mentioned interest from Lotus, though its broker died suddenly which stalled the dialogue.

Both Beall and Gamble expressed concern over Theory R's litigious nature, as well. Its attorney has sent three letters threatening to sue the city if it didn't provide the rezoning Theory R desired. At one point, Beall held up a thick stack of papers that constituted the letters and the attachments sent to the city with the threats. 

Theory R representatives responded  it was merely protecting its interests.

Afterward, Daichendt was noncommittal about whether Theory R would pursue legal action against the City, but said he'd like to sleep on it. 

At 3:15 a.m., who could blame him.

TELL US IN THE COMMENTS: Do you agree that holding out for an auto dealer is in the best long-term interests of the City? 
Robert Templeton January 09, 2014 at 07:05 PM
This is my first post. Periodically I listen to the CC meetings on line. I just finished listening to last night's meeting. The City Council did a thorough job listening to the testimony and weighing the facts. I was very impressed. The city, consultants and Theory R did a good job in their presentations. THEORY R confessed they made a "calculated business risk, and we were wrong" when they bought the property. THEORY R bought the WRONG PIECE OF PROPERTY for what they do for a living - develop commercial rental property. Mayor Gamble hit the nail on the head: it's not that car dealers DON'T want to come to RSM, it is that car dealers want to OWN their own property when they establish such a long term businesses in a community. Theory R repeatedly stated last night they DON'T want to sell their property - they want to be a landlord. Which is fine, but not compatible with the evidence presented on a great majority of auto dealers. Theory R plans to build a strip shopping plaza with a nail salon, dry cleaner, etc. to support their tenant which RELOCATES a gym from one area of the city to the other that DOES NOT create new jobs, creates a new vacancy and permanently harms the city's income (which pays for police, roads, etc.). Listen to meeting - it was very interesting. The CC definitely got this one RIGHT! Thank you.
Shawn Gordon January 09, 2014 at 07:07 PM
Larry your first problem is in trying to make an educated guess. I have an alias because I thought it was a login ID when i created it when the site first went live and didn't see a way to put my actual name, I blog on here as well and had you spent 30 seconds actually researching my ID, you'd have found who I was. I'm going to save that for when I post the youtube clip of your comments at last nights meeting. You've got a really violent temper there Larry, you are always threatening violence at the first opportunity from everything I've seen. LeAna and Something Special Catering - I qualified my statements on both counts and I'd love to get more detail. I'm not a reporter, I don't get paid for what I do, maybe Martin can dig in on that or maybe he has in the past and I missed the stories.
Shawn Gordon January 09, 2014 at 07:20 PM
Ok, to be specific about the property owners. There are tax write offs they get for them being empty, the net result is the same, no incentive to lower the rent or to fill the place at lower rates, which is the issue, not the wording of the problem.
Craig W. Leinert January 09, 2014 at 07:38 PM
Sir, I was there last night, but left at around 10:30. Unfortunately I was there to see Mr. McCook verbally attack a city councilman and then threaten violence. Please sir, I say this sincerely. Please get some help. You have some rather significant anger issues that need to be addressed. Your conduct last night was difficult to watch and you owe some people some apologies.
Lawrence (Larry) McCook January 10, 2014 at 12:31 AM
Actually Craig & smga3000 (nice photo and you can still modify your account and post your name somewhere), I am a non violent man. I was laughing about my planned presentation while planning it the day before. I told a few people that I intended to make this presentation. They thought that it was also humorous! I am smiling while replying to your comments. The point that I wanted to make is/was that it is not nice for some of Tony Beall's supporters to make disparaging comments that are in no way reflective of a truthful occurrence. The truth is that no violence occurred and I have never committed a crime. . IMO, these people are ruthless in their attacks, i.e,- against Kenny Hrabik prior to the November 2012 Election. Mr. Hrabik is a devoted father, husband and a successful businessman. The latter can not be claimed by any of the men on the council. These are the people, several behind the scenes, running RSM? My children, my brother, my lifelong extensive list of customers and friends for 40-60 years will vouch for my honesty and kindness. As for a Boxing Match, it is very unlikely that I could go 3 Rounds (or 3 minutes for that matter) in a friendly boxing bout! LOL Lighten up and think about how you personally can help RSM develop some major business. I do mean "Major Business" not just dining or retail. Volunteers are welcome! I offered to help for free as a Council Member but, it appears that the City of RSM Leaders had rather pay someone $87,000.00 per year for part time work than to support someone outside of their close knit group. . I will not do this persons job for her but, sincerely wish her every success.
Shawn Gordon January 10, 2014 at 01:32 AM
you actually planned out those comments and thought they were funny? you sure didn't sound like you were trying to be funny, and you were rambling all over the place about russian brides, and your family coming to america in 1630 or something. You're rambling here as well, you're very fond of throwing out lots of bizarre accusations with nothing to back it up, reminds me of your claims of military service as well. You don't get to volunteer for city council, you get voted in, and apparently people thought you were too violent and cranky and unhinged for the job.
Lawrence (Larry) McCook January 10, 2014 at 02:20 AM
smga3000- So you are the famous Shaun Gordon who has developed software to solve traffic flow problems in RSM. Ladera Ranch, Tesoro High School and perhaps all of Orange County, The State of California and perhaps the world! Now I am starting to understand your support for The RSM Planning Commission and City Council. Are you trying to sell your software to The City of RSM? Are you even a registered voter in RSM? Too bad that you didn't stick around last night to see Tony Beall's angry cross examination of Joe Daichendt about his involvement with another website and Facebook Ads. Yes, I am very proud of my heredity starting with the arrival of John Forbes in America in 1636 and the arrival of my Great Uncle Charles Forbes to the Fresno area in 1872. I am also proud that I Co-Chaired a California Assembly District for Ronald Reagan when he ran for Governor in 1966. I am also proud to have donned a uniform for the USA for a short time and Martin Henderson of this very Patch saw my certification of military service. Lighten up and be more business positive! My bemusement is fading for this blog so I must bid you farewell until another business development issue surfaces.
Gina January 10, 2014 at 02:44 AM
Martin, it is not appropriate for a City Counsel meeting to go so long (into the next day) that residents who would like to speak have to leave. You said there were 7 of the 14 residents in favor of the rezoning left and they weren't denied the opportunity, well having a meeting going on this late is tantamount to not having residents be heard. And the 'corporate people' I was talking about were all those suits who spoke BEFORE THE PUBLIC had a chance to speak. Yes, the suits from BOTH SIDES went on too long. My post said that the meeting should have been continued so "ALL RESIDENTS" should have had the opportunity to be heard, and ''EVERYONE COULD GET THEIR 3MINS" meaning both residents against and in favor of the rezoning. Counsel meetings that go past 10pm should be continued, otherwise residents must leave (yes, they must leave) thus the City Council meeting no longer has the appearance of a 'public meeting' because it is being held at such unreasonable hours. Martin, not sure why you had such a hostile response to my post, it was an innocuous comment that the meeting should have been continued, not hostile, not insulting, just a residents opinion which is what I thought these Posts were all about. But if providing a comment results in such an angry reply from the Editor probably not such a free forum for residents to provide an opinion.
Martin Henderson (Editor) January 10, 2014 at 04:19 AM
Gina, I misunderstood your "corporate" reference; I thought it was to the public speakers and not the experts; sorry about that! My hostile response is much worse and I apologize if it came across that way. I was providing a dispassionate clarification of the numbers, which may not have been clear: 7 speakers left the meeting leaving 14 to speak in favor of rezoning (not 7 of the 14 in favor left the meeting). So, 14 speakers for rezoning spoke, 7 speakers against rezoning spoke. It's unfortunate the speakers had to leave, but given a 10 p.m. curfew, this discussion would have required three meetings (the next meeting is in two weeks, so practicality would have been an issue). IIRC, residents have the opportunity to submit written comments as well. Residents who may have needed to leave early would not have been denied the opportunity to speak during a public comments session near the beginning of the meeting (the session in which Larry McCook talked about his forefathers). The normal order for council meetings allows public commenters to hear both sides first, and because of the issue's complexity it dragged on (and on). Additionally, this was a meeting Theory R wanted for some time (with the threat of legal action to get it); Mayor Gamble didn't want to drag it out further (over a second meeting). Thanks for contributing your opinion, and again, my apology for the misunderstanding.
Shawn Gordon January 10, 2014 at 10:25 AM
Larry, the scope of your inability to actually fully read and comprehend anything is breathtaking. Please show me where I said I'd created any software to solve any of the aforementioned items? It is spelled Shawn by the way. Please to enjoy the strange ramblings of one Larry McCook http://youtu.be/N1KPmX6iu0U
Shawn Gordon January 10, 2014 at 10:49 AM
Much as it pains me, I'm going to deconstruct Larry's odd comments directed at me. I pointed out the problems with school site traffic and traffic signal synchronization and timing in general in 2 different blog posts. Everyone agreed. I made mention that as a software developer, I know it can't possibly take that long or cost that much to make the changes I've proposed to improve things. I did not at any time say I had software, nor do I have software, that manages it. Traffic control software is a big time government contract, even if I'd made it, the odds of having them replace it are nil, so it isn't a wise use of time. I've lived in RSM since 1998 and watched my house being built. I live, shop and work here and my kids go to school here. I really don't care about Larry's mystery military service other than it exhibits a continued pattern of behavior. If Larry plans to run for council again, people should be aware of what they are voting for. Larry is all about complaining. I, on the other hand, like to find solutions to any problems I see.
Andrew P. January 10, 2014 at 02:16 PM
Absolutely stunning! This man is so dangerous. http://youtu.be/N1KPmX6iu0U
Lawrence (Larry) McCook January 12, 2014 at 12:10 PM
Thank You for the kind words RSM Dad (AKA-Gary Thompson). Yes, I dare to comment my opinion against the RSM government power. I even use my real name.
Shawn Gordon January 12, 2014 at 06:45 PM
I thought you were accusing me of being Gary Thompson? Is everyone Gary? You didn't "comment your opinion", you went on some psychotic rambling tirade. I'm still wondering what the point of the 21 out of 22 divorced eastern european couples was about.
Martin Henderson (Editor) January 13, 2014 at 11:36 AM
RSMDad, I have deleted your last comment. Please refrain from calling people names. It's against our terms of service. You're smarter than that. I remind everyone to be civil if you you choose to disagree with another commenter. Thanks.
OCGOP January 13, 2014 at 08:19 PM
The audio of Mr. McCook's unfortunate comments has made it to my desk. These comments about women and violence are an embarrassment, to say the very least. I concur with others who have suggested professional intervention.
RSM Family January 14, 2014 at 03:16 PM
I concur with everyone suggesting McCook seek counseling. Unprofessional for a bizness man and getting worse.
Lawrence (Larry) McCook January 15, 2014 at 02:03 AM
I am finding considerable humor with "everyone suggesting" remark. Everyone is 4 people on Patch and 1 different person on the other Website & Facebook. There seems to be several unlicensed shrinks commenting on this site! LOL The truth is OCGOP & RSM Family have each posted twice and the latter is brand new to Patch. A person would have had to fall off a watermelon truck in Alabama not to know that these people are cronies for Beall , Gamble and/or their RSM appointees. Criticism of what is going wrong in RSM comes with a price but, believe me I am tough enough to handle their disparagement. I promise not to go away! Factual verifiable truth about City of RSM Problems is forthcoming!
Shawn Gordon January 15, 2014 at 10:56 AM
Actually it just takes a paranoid person to identify everyone as a crony for the council, you tried it with me too. I'm thinking it might be time and pull Larrys Greatest Hits from the city council recordings. Cogent facts from you would be refreshing Larry and I promise to read them with an open mind if you can produce them, but you're not the only person running around saying that and then never produces.
Lawrence (Larry) McCook January 15, 2014 at 03:47 PM
smga3000 (AKA Shaun/Sean? Gordon)- Actually I have not identified everyone as "cronies for the council". There only a handful that will fight in print (quite often these are but, not limited to, current and past council members) and they like to hide behind aliases. As far as verifiable issues, they will come forth in due time. Meanwhile I other things to do rather than respond to these posted comments. I wish you a great day (Ciao Bello)! In case you do not understand, this means that I will not be checking this blog.
Shawn Gordon January 15, 2014 at 04:15 PM
As you know, it is "Shawn", and of course you'll keep checking this as you already said you weren't coming back but did. If you have verifiable issues of malfeasance, then it is disgusting you would hold on to them for some sort of personal gain instead of coming forth with it immediately to cure the problem.
Morgan January 15, 2014 at 04:59 PM
I have to agree with smga3000 on this. Mr McCook, I have personally been on the receiving end of your temper, as has the rest of my family. You can say that it is just politics or whatever, fine. Then politically challenge people. However, verbally berating someone's family is never okay. Furthermore, the way you treat people online is appalling. I have tried to give you the benefit of the doubt in the past, thinking that you simply were not aware of how mean you are online, but I have concluded that not only are you very much aware of your online presence, but you deliberately go out of your way to make your negativity known to anyone who will listen (or in this case, read). To be perfectly honest, I feel sorry for those who come in contact with you online. I would like to believe you are nicer in person, but I am doubtful. I truly feel sorry for you, Mr. McCook. I imagine it must be exhausting to be so angry all the time. I hope you find a way to let go of your anger and negativity in a more productive manner, opposed to using the internet.
RSM Resident January 15, 2014 at 05:34 PM
Both sides – the City Council and Theory R – are engaging in speculation. The City Council believes that at some point in the future a car dealer will want to occupy the site, expecting the dealer to lease the real property rather than owning it and ignoring the failure of the prior Nissan dealership. Theory R bought the property speculating that it can lease the property to a dealer or do something else with it by getting a zoning change. This is the financial hazard with “spec properties.” Regarding the zoning change, Theory R would have a decent legal case if they can show that the city disparately applies the general plan restrictions for given uses or zoning. Theory could point to the In & Out establishment as an example of disparate treatment. In & Out is not an auto dealer or would qualify as a synergistic industry overlay. However, the city was quick to approve this new establishment. As far as showing that the Carmendy relationship with Mayor Beall et al (in regards to campaign donations) influenced those council members’ decision, it’s legally difficult to do. Campaign donations are a common practice allowed by law. A successful Theory R lawsuit against the city on the grounds of creating a “taking,” in my opinion, would be difficult. Staff simply followed the city’s general plan and the California statutes in their recommendation to the Planning Commission and City Council. Theory R’s best remedy is to remove their greatest obstacle – Councilman Beall – through a recall effort and somehow have the three votes on the council. In either case, it’s mission difficult, but there are $ millions at stake.
Shawn Gordon January 15, 2014 at 07:27 PM
RSM Resident - The In n Out was never included in auto center zoning or overlay, so that isn't a tact. The Nissan dealership failed because of the owners, not because it couldn't sell, that was part of the lawsuit of Nissan against "Family" auto company. We have an election this year with 3 seats of the 5 open, so a recall isn't really needed. I'd like to see a sunset for how long they're gonna hold out for a car dealership. The best suggestion I've seen would be a YMCA with some support stores, maybe small bowling facility, all complimentary. We need more things for the teens to do around here inexpensively.
Lena Kubota January 15, 2014 at 07:36 PM
costco! give us a costco!
RSM Family January 15, 2014 at 07:36 PM
Hmmm...curious about those campaign donations....I took a look. Biggest contributor to Beall's 2012 campaign...Theory R, and a donation from their realtor Jay LaRue too...None from Carmendy. Guess Beall can't be bought! Bet if he is recalled Baric and Petrilla will be too...Will start looking for money there...
Shawn Gordon January 15, 2014 at 07:44 PM
Lena. Costco has been in the works for ages and is apparently getting close but the Nissan site is about half the size that they need. I think the spot is over there near Antonio and Bievenidos, but I could be wrong. Baric and Petrilla aren't running again, Petrilla is running for Assembly, so no point in trying to recall them. Beall has done a good job for the city. Thanks for taking a look, it's always interesting to see where the money comes from.
Robert Templeton January 16, 2014 at 05:54 PM
Hi RSM Family - interesting research on Beall integrity. Thanks for doing that homework. I wonder about the others? Regarding your earlier post there is no need for the City Council to change the zoning to fix a speculative developer's mess who wants to screw us. Theory R has HAD an offer for months to put a car dealer in there and confessed in both the CC & PC meetings they never even answered the offer!
Martin Henderson (Editor) January 17, 2014 at 11:06 AM
I suspect Costco will be the tenant at Chiquita Ridge when that project is completed, but first a sports park must be built with funds from the City—the same funds that are generated by sales tax from properties such as the Nissan site (where an auto dealer would provide significantly more revenue than Theory R's proposal at this time).
Glenn Acosta January 17, 2014 at 12:34 PM
I also believe that Chiquita Ridge is the best location for a Costco. I think the city can pitch that fact there aren't any gasoline stations for a mile or two in either direction, allowing Costco to construct a super large gas station to enhance their revenue stream and have it be an additional draw for customers. As I stated in the last election cycle, Costco can provide sufficient tax revenue to help finance the construction of sports parks. Also, the city should try to amend the agreement to allow for concurrent development - develop the property to get tax revenue to finance bonds while, at the same time, build sports parks in a phased fashion (as money allows).


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