Borrego Sun - Since 1949

Sponsor Group Welcomes New Members


Last updated 4/15/2022 at 10:47am

The April 7 Borrego Springs Community Sponsor Group (BSCSG) meeting opened with a welcome to two new members. At its April 5 meeting, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors (BOS) appointed Bruce Durbin and Julie Gerson to the two vacant seats on the Group. Later in the meeting, Sponsor Group Chair Rebecca Falk announced that an expansion of the Sponsor Group to nine members will be on the April 27th BOS agenda, along with the recommendation from the Sponsor Group to appoint Nancy McRae and Jim Dax to the two new seats.

The April meeting agenda included a request for a waiver of sidewalk, curb/gutter, and streetlights on the 200 feet of frontage on Palm Canyon Drive, for “Puttin’ Around Borrego,” the miniature golf project that was approved last June by the Sponsor Group. The property is located 0.2 miles to the east of Ocotillo Circle, across from Borrego Valley Inn. Owner and developer Joe Carll argued that although the community standard for Palm Canyon Drive was adopted in 1989, adjacent commercial properties, i.e., Borrego Valley Inn and Santa Fe Palms Mobile Home Park, that were developed in 1998 and 2000, respectively, do not have sidewalk/curb gutters and streetlights. He noted that if the project was required to have sidewalk/curb gutters and streetlights, it would look out of place compared to adjacent properties.

Sponsor Group members spoke about the directive of the Borrego Springs Community Plan to reduce unnecessary sidewalk, curbing and street lights in our desert environment and thought the parking lot lighting for the project sufficient. The Group voted unanimously to have the Chair send a letter to the County Planning and Development Services Land Development Program Manager for the project, recommending an exemption from these additional conditions.

Residents would have noticed that the La Casa del Zorro Solar project, at the triangle between Borrego Springs Road and Yaqui Pass Road, has broken ground. John Wells, representing La Casa, has been providing updates to the Sponsor Group in recent months about permitting and buildout of the project, and about ideas for the look of the fencing around it. As the project is at one of the approaches into Borrego Springs, La Casa has engaged with community members to seek input with an eye towards aesthetics. Community members are invited to review photos of alternatives being considered: and provide comments and feedback about preferences. Under consideration are decorative “lacing” of the fence, metal decorative additions, metal sculptures, and well as native vegetation around the fencing.

Several other topics of community interest were discussed at the April Sponsor Group meeting.

The planned Dollar General Store on Palm Canyon Drive west of J&T Auto. Local residents have reported that building material has already been delivered on the site, prior to grading and building permit approvals. More recently, tall fencing has appeared on the site, again prior to permit approvals. Chair Falk noted again that since the parcel is zoned C-36 commercial, building a Dollar General store is a “by-right” land use for the parcel, and there is no discretionary permit review.

In response to the reported delivery of building materials and subsequent fencing erected around those materials prior to permit approvals, the county has issued a warning letter to the current owner of the property, with a notice to correct the issue by April 15, after which fines will accrue. Chair Falk has invited David Church, who is listed as the applicant on the county permit application, to attend the May meeting of the Sponsor Group to brief the community on the project, answer questions, and hear community inputs and concerns.

18-wheel trucks on Montezuma Grade (S-22). Chair Falk updated the group that by the end of April, county staff will contract with a consultant to conduct an engineering study on whether 18-wheeler trucks can safely navigate Montezuma Grade. The study will measure the turning radius on the tight curves. Based on the study, County Traffic Engineering will decide if banning such traffic is warranted under current law and guidelines, since that kind of decision has to be defensible in court.

The Downtown Sidewalks, Crosswalks and Shadeway projects have been combined into a single construction project. Construction is expected to begin sometime in the fall of 2022 after County Board of Supervisors approval, followed by contract bidding

Uptick in Crime. Chair Falk reported that the recent incident of vandalism at The Mall appears to be related to methamphetamine use. Sargent Jenkins from the County Sheriff has agreed to attend the May meeting of the Sponsor Group along with Deputies Mowers and Crawford, to discuss the recent increase in criminal incidents in Borrego Springs.

Fallowing Standards and Best Practices. The Sponsor Group discussed a correspondence received from Elena Thompson prompted by the recent burning of citrus trees at the north end of the valley. The letter, which was also addressed to several other entities, requested consideration of development of fallowing standards and best practices to address potential blight on fallowed land and potential air quality and fire danger impacts due to burns. Chair Falk noted that there are minimum fallowing standards that are in place in the Sustainable Water Use Stipulated Judgment, for land that is fallowed when water rights are purchased or transferred. These minimum standards require chipping or burning of fallowed trees and mulching with the chips or ash. Vice Chair John Peterson noted that good fallowing practices require “a lot of money, or a lot of water, neither of which are available in Borrego Springs.”

A discussion of fallowing will be on the agenda of the June meeting of the Sponsor Group. San Diego County Water Resources Manager Jim Bennett will discuss a county application to the US Bureau of Reclamation for a pilot fallowing project grant, for which he needs community support. Jim Dax requested that representatives of agriculture be also invited to the June meeting for discussions about fallowing. Bill Haneline noted that some of the fallowed land may have been acquired by other water interests in the valley, such as golf courses.

Sustainable Land Use Framework. Chair Falk discussed the county’s Sustainable Land Use Framework that is under development. The framework includes a particular focus on vehicle miles traveled (VMT) as a result of SB 743 that changed the way local jurisdictions analyze transportation impacts from development projects. As we have reported earlier, certain walkable parcels in downtown may qualify as VMT-friendly, exempting projects on those parcels from mitigation requirements for anticipated greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions as a result of the project.

Chair Falk encouraged Sponsor Group members and members of the community to learn more about the framework as our community embarks on the important work of envisioning the future of Borrego Springs. As we covered in the December 1, 2021 issue of the Borrego Sun, the Stewardship Council has taken a lead on this visioning work for the next Community Plan Update. Individuals and community groups are invited to provide feedback on the Sustainable Land Use Framework as County staff conduct outreach over spring and summer, before they report back to the Board of Supervisors.

The next regular meeting of the Sponsor Group is scheduled for May 5, 5 p.m. It will be a hybrid meeting. Participants can attend in person at the Borrego Springs Library Community Room, or via Zoom. To be added to the Sponsor Group email list to receive agendas and agenda packets, contact the Chair at