A group of concerned residents meet at Orange Terrace Community Park to discuss a proposal to build warehouses in their community. (Alicia Ramirez/TN News)

As Amazon’s annual Prime Day event came to a close Wednesday night, a group of roughly two dozen Riverside residents concerned about a proposal to build a series of warehouses near their homes met at Orange Terrace Community Park.

“I try very hard not to ever order anything online anymore,” Kristy Doty said during the meeting. “I’ll go to the store.”

Doty, who has lived in the Orange Crest neighborhood for more than 30 years, said she has seen firsthand the disruption caused by the proliferation of these large-scale warehouses throughout the Inland Empire.

“We moved up here when there were still orange groves around here,” she said. “So we’ve seen a lot of development.”

The group, Riverside Neighbors Opposing Warehouses (R-NOW), was formed in response to a proposal to develop a range of mixed use, business park and industrial uses on approximately 360 acres of land generally located at the former March Air Force Base weapon storage area. The proposal also includes the creation of a 60-acre park site and would place approximately 445 acres of land into a permanent conservation easement to be used as hiking and biking trails.

“We first learned about this project in February of 2022,” Mike McCarthy said during the meeting. “Eighteen months ago, the notification went out and we have been opposing it ever since.”

The proposal is currently being considered by the March Joint Powers Authority (JPA), a commission created to represent the interests of both the county and the base’s adjoining cities as it works to find new uses for the land left vacant following the base’s downsizing.

McCarthy told the group a public hearing on the environmental impact report draft was tentatively going to happen this fall, though he said a date had not yet been set.

“We don’t have a date, we don’t have a time, we don’t have a location,” he said. “But they did put one sentence in their agenda that it might be in the fall.”

McCarthy said more than 900 comments were submitted during the public comment period for the environmental impact review draft, of which only a handful were made in support of the proposal.

Wednesday’s meeting came roughly a month after a handful of R-NOW members spoke at a Riverside County Board of Supervisors meeting and provided those in attendance with updates on the group’s activities.

McCarthy also said that the group had switched law firms to represent them, thanks to an anonymous donor who negotiated with the firm to cover the cost of legal representation for as long as the group wants to continue to fight the project.

“We weren’t super happy with them,” he said of the group’s initial law firm. “They seemed like they were very eager to settle, and that wasn’t really the way we wanted to go. We want to fight this thing for as long as we can, and we don’t want to allow warehouses in some settlement agreement, so that didn’t work for us.”

The group, which is seeking nonprofit status, is still raising funds to cover the cost of filing fees, awareness campaigns and other expenses to continue to fight against the proposed project and delay action on it until the JPA sunsets in two years and the permitting process for this project goes to the county.

“Every once in a while, the good guys do win, but they don’t win if they don’t fight,” Andrew Silva, a longtime resident of the area, said. “It does happen.”

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Alicia Ramirez is the publisher of TN News and the founder and CEO of its parent company TN News.