Sponsor Group Meets to Vote on Key Issues
Last updated 10/17/2019 at 12:40pm
The Sponsor Group met on Oct. 3 in the Library Community Room, and Clint Brandin announced the passing of Bill Wright two days prior. Four important agenda items were discussed: 1) A temporary paratrooper landing zone grading permit south of the airport; 2) Rams Hill’s proposed Development Agreement Threshold Decision; 3) Parklands dedication ordinance; and 4) Recreation programming priority list (PLDO).
Melanie Conatser from Skydive Perris spoke on the County’s request for comments and a vote on a proposed Administrative Permit for continuing to use the site for a two-acre parachute landing zone by Canadian and British forces.
Last year, 17 acres of property owned by Gabriel and Diana Wisdom were graded without the proper permits and determined to be a violation, resulting in the mandatory purchase of land credits on a 2:1 basis from the Anza-Borrego Foundation as a mitigation measure; 34 acres will be purchased by Skydive Perris to mitigate damage caused by the unpermitted grading. Preference for restoration of the site rather than mitigation with land purchased from Park inholdings was expressed by letter.
SG Members Judy Haldeman, Clint Brandin, Linda Haddock, William Haveline, and Bonnie Petrach voted to recommend approval of the Administrative Permit, with Chairperson Rebecca Falk abstaining.
The Rams Hill Specific Plan, last amended in 1986, was up for discussion with changes to “allow consideration of an application to update and extend for 30 years, including a re-affirmation of the plan for a second golf course.” Rams Hill CEO Shannon Smith made the presentation.
Because the current plan changes differ from the original plan, Rams Hill had to pledge “extraordinary benefits” to the community before approval.
The proposed benefits include: Retire residential development rights where for every 10 homes allowed, one entitlement will not be built; Aquifer replenishment by not using an entitlement to water for 2,000 acre feet; increased open space by 10% over requirements; funding a new fire station; a matching grant for fallowed land management; and funding a study for low-cost renewable energy with matching community grants.
Comments from the applicant and community stakeholders focused mainly on the water requirements of the new golf course, plus members weighed in on those, and other considerations: A letter from the Tubb Canyon Conservancy, read by David Farley, recommended rejection of the application. Smith emphasized the request amounted to “starting a conversation” with the County on a Threshold Decision, not a shortcut or a final commitment, and presented letters of support for the application. Falk received a letter opposed to a second golf course and commented that water requirements for a second golf course combined with Rams Hill’s water use for its existing golf course amounted to one-third of the projected total community use by 2040.
Suzanne Lawrence stated that the water budget was a concern, and that while she wasn’t against the Threshold Decision, she wanted more professionals involved and questioned the urgency of the application. She also pointed out that the trend lines for “the future of golf beyond 2040 are not good.”
Rams Hill resident Joe Tatusko countered that time is money, and the project would bring money to Borrego Springs, and Elizabeth Rodrigues said the “conversation” had already begun, and facts should continue to be gathered.
The SG approved the application, with five members in favor, Falk and Hanline opposed. If the Planning & Development Services Director recommends approval of the Threshold Decision, there will be a 30-day public comment period, after which the Board of Supervisors will weigh in for agreement. If so, Rams Hill can submit a Development Agreement to the County and apply for a discretionary permit process needed for the revised plan.
On other action items requiring a vote, the SG unanimously approved modification of a Major Use Permit by the RoadRunner Club, allowing building on approximately 90 vacant lots in the newer section of the property, and the completion of two or three model homes in time for the coming season; individual property spaces will continued to be rented, not owned.
A second unanimous vote came on approval of keeping a request for a “splash pad” in addition to requesting a group picnic area and trash bins for the library park as priorities for PLDO funds.