10:00 PM PDT on Sunday, July 17, 2011

By DARRELL R. SANTSCHI
The Press-Enterprise

A developer and his consultants painted a loosely defined landscape of hiking trails, parks, open space, at least one school and as many as 4,000 houses in easternmost Highland last week to City Council and Planning Commission members.

“It’s really like building a city,” said Randall Lewis, executive vice president of the Lewis Group of Cos. “We are not looking at the market today. We are looking at the market for the life of the property.”

Lewis told council members and commissioners that his company, once known for the sprawling housing tracts it built across the Inland area and Southern California, now specializes in planned community developments.

That is what he proposes with Harmony, a mixed-density development spread in a crescent shape along 1,657.3 acres north of Mill Creek on Highland’s far eastern boundary.

Details of how an estimated 3,000 to 4,000 housing units, including larger estate lots on steeper ground, are to be clustered on the land and what flood control and fire prevention improvements will be incorporated are yet to be worked out.

EARLY STAGES

Lewis representatives emphasized they were providing a very preliminary peek at their development and that the specifics will come later.

Lewis said there would be meetings with area residents.

Councilwoman Jody Scott said she was particularly concerned about disaster escape routes, which appeared to be limited on the preliminary maps displayed at Tuesday’s meeting.

Other city officials urged Lewis to tie trails through the development into existing trails within Highland and to be careful about imposing multiple layers of homeowners associations that could be collecting fees from residents.

Lewis representatives said as much as 60 percent of the land would be proposed for open space and there would be six miles of trails extending through the development from existing trail routes in the hillsides above it. Some type of orchards also would be included.

There will be at least one school site in the development, although city officials said it may need a second one, and recreation centers are planned.

Lewis’ spokesmen said there could be other amenities, such as a library and/or a museum, but they didn’t specify who would pay for them.

Mayor Larry McCallon criticized the developer for bypassing a council committee and making its first contact directly with the entire council and Planning Commission, saying Lewis risked alienating committee members.

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