Contact: Joe Vargo, Perris Public Information Officer
Phone: 951-956-2120

Pentagon Letter Support Development at March Air Reserve Base

Perris City Councilman Mark Yarbrough stands in the “accident potential zone” of March Air Reserve Base. Yarbrough, who also is chairman of the March Joint Powers Commission, said the City must have clear guidelines so it  can develop commercial businesses around the perimeter of March
Perris City Councilman Mark Yarbrough stands in the “accident potential zone” of March Air Reserve Base. Yarbrough, who also is chairman of the March Joint Powers Commission, said the City must have clear guidelines so it  can develop commercial businesses around the perimeter of March.

Perris officials hailed the release of a document this week they say provides clear direction and invaluable guidelines for the City as it develops its north end adjacent to March Air Reserve Base.

The letter  from Lori Stone, executive director at the March Joint Powers Authority to James P. Holland, a Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Air Force (Installations) became public after months of telephone conversations and emails between the JPA and the Pentagon concerning developments in so-called “accident potential zones” around March.

Perris officials have for years sought guidelines and direction that would allow for the construction of warehouses and distribution centers, businesses that would bring employment and tax revenue to municipal coffers.

The July 7 letter appears to indicate that at least some Pentagon decision makers support guidelines that would allow such development on the south end of March and in the Perris City limits.

Perris officials say those sorts of projects could pour millions of dollars into City coffers while providing low-density development ideal around the periphery of March.

“We’ve cleared a huge obstacle,” said Perris City Councilman Mark Yarbrough, who also is chairman of the March Joint Powers Commission, a body of elected officials that enacts policy on behalf of the Joint Powers Authority. ”It’s good to know that Perris staff has been following appropriate military guidelines. We’ve been on the right track all along as we try to implement responsible planning on our north end. This is a very important milestone.”

Mayor Daryl Busch, who also sits on the Joint Powers Commission, said Perris has always been a good neighbor to March and will continue in that tradition.

“We’ve always followed military standards,” he said. “We have every intention of being a safe and reliable neighbor. We will develop the area in a safe and responsible manner.”

Stone said members of the Joint Powers Commission, which include representatives from Perris, Moreno Valley, Riverside and Riverside County would “not support developments that could impede the continuing mission at March.” 

The letter goes on to say that Holland and other Department of Officials representatives, over the course of continuing conversations with Stone, appear to support warehouse and distribution center developments like those on the drawing board in Perris.

Stone said the Pentagon is working to develop a single set of guidelines for development around military installations.

Currently, the Navy and Air Force have separate development standards. Air Force guidelines generally place more restrictions on developments but are sometimes not well defined and open to various interpretations. Navy guidelines generally allow for more development and are generally better defined. For instance, Navy standards indicate that buildings may occupy up to half of the acreage under development while Air Force guidelines appear to indicate buildings should occupy no more than 20 percent of any one parcel. The lower percentage makes warehouse or distribution centers unfeasible.

The proposed new base-perimeter building guidelines, which will apply to all services branches, seem closer to the standards used by the Navy, which would allow for warehouses and distribution centers such as those planned by the City. Those developments also would limit the number of employees for each business to 25 per acre, which Perris planners say will not hinder planned projects.

Stone said nothing has been established yet, as the military still has not given its final seal of approval. But she also trumpeted the preliminary approval as a significant milestone.

“It lays out the blueprint for land use around the entire base,” Stone said.
Nick Johnson, the City’s airport planning consultant, said the likelihood of a crash in an accident potential zone is nil. Military aircraft are well built, well maintained and flown by crews with thousands of hours at the controls.

“If there was a risk of accident, the military would invest funds to buy that land,” Johnson said. “They are not.”

 Associate Planner Diane Sbardellati said the City always has been careful to balance the needs of March and Perris’ economic future as it develops parcels near the base.

“We do not want to impede March,” Sbardellati said. “But we have to have economic development in our north end. We feel we are on the right track, and this will work out for us.”