The residents of Canyon Lake voted to approve incorporation as a city in November 1990. This series focuses on what was involved in the “birth of a city,” and what happened in Canyon Lake’s first year after incorporation.
As president of the Canyon Lake Property Owners Association in 1990, Jack Wamsley knew the gated community of Canyon Lake was facing some pressing concerns, and he was at the forefront of trying to solve them.
One of those concerns was the BLM land directly north of the community. Jack says he learned the Bureau of Land Management was planning to sell the property to a developer and the Association had no say in the matter. He knew being an incorporated city would give the community a “sphere of influence,” so that’s when he recommended cityhood to the CLPOA Board.
No one knew what the incorporation process entailed, so Jack met with George Spiliotis, head of Riverside County’s Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO). Jack says, “George became my mentor of city knowledge. He told me the process, which I then presented to the Board.”
It was necessary to hire a consultant and pay for a survey to know whether Canyon Lake could even exist as a city; i.e. bring in enough taxes. The survey showed that what the Association already owned, plus the commercial centers at the Towne Center and East Gate, would provide more than enough tax base for the new city.
At that point, incorporation was considered in earnest and Board member John Giardinelli, a local attorney, became chair of the Incorporation Committee. The first order of business was to come up with boundaries.
“I made a presentation as to boundaries,” says Jack. “We wanted to make sure we got control of the BLM land, since they were in the process of selling it and we wanted it to stay the way it was.”
Menifee was not an incorporated city at the time; so, while considering boundaries, Jack asked George Spiliotis how far east Canyon Lake could go. “He told me we could go all the way to I-215.”
Since Menifee didn’t have retail centers and homes like it does now (outside the Sun City Core), the Incorporation Committee decided Canyon Lake taxpayers couldn’t afford to be responsible for that whole area, which necessarily included the aging infrastructure of Quail Valley.
These days, some citizens question why planners didn’t foresee the budget crisis that has plagued the City of Canyon Lake over the past few years. But Jack says, “In the survey, we had plenty of money for fire and police (in the current city boundaries). We had no idea those would increase to the extent they did – there was no indication that we needed to be concerned about it at the time.”
The city planners also never anticipated the California governor taking vehicle license fees away from cities. “We lost a lot of money when the governor took away license fees,” says Jack. That’s what helped us put money in reserves.”
When considering boundaries outside the North Gate, negotiations involved Lake Elsinore. Jack says he met with the Lake Elsinore City Council, which was in the process of developing Canyon Hills, and said, “If we leave you alone on Canyon Hills, will you give us BLM property (to be under our sphere of influence)?”
“They agreed to that. No battle at all,” says Jack. “They gave up their sphere of influence on BLM and I put it in our boundaries. It included the tract of BLM property at the Ski Jump Lagoon.”
Having the sphere of influence has given Canyon Lake the right to enforce City ordinances on the BLM land within its boundaries, which extend several hundred yards up the river in the North Ski Area.
These include ordinances having to do with activities like dumping, shooting, camping, keeping dogs on leashes and the use of off-road vehicles and personal watercraft. The City’s Special Enforcement Officers provide enforcement.