Candidates discuss BLM land development

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Over the next few weeks, citizens will have a chance to hear from their City Council candidates, learn how much they understand about the City’s current and future challenges, and what each candidate hopes to accomplish if elected to serve a four-year term on City Council.

Residents who have a question they’d like to have candidates answer in The Friday Flyer’s Q&A can e-mail their questions to news@goldingpublications.com.

The general election will take place on November 8. All Canyon Lake citizens registered to vote are eligible to vote for candidates to fill the three available seats on City Council.

In last week’s Q&A, The Friday Flyer asked candidates to explain their plans to continue fire services for the City of Canyon Lake. This week, The Friday Flyer asked candidates to explain their thoughts on the BLM land development. Candidates are listed in reverse order according to their last names.

Question:

In 400 or fewer words, please explain your thoughts on the BLM land development.

George Middle

The hundreds of acres of BLM land, surrounding the north side of Canyon Lake come in three categories:

  • A section too steep for walking, biking or horses. This is on north side of the river.
  • A section of land on the fire station side of the river that is hike-able. A gate has to be unlocked by a $100 key deposit.
  • A section of “flatish” land approximately 880 acres, adjacent to the Equestrian Center that is currently used for horse riding, cycling and walking. This land has a gate that requires a key to access the BLM land. A large group of homeowners are fighting to protect this land from development.

Canyon lake residents will be mostly affected by the private lands all the way to Central Ave. that can be developed. An example of the potential development is the site on the north side of Greenwald, about a half mile from the North Gate approved by Lake Elsinore City for a home development of 350 homes. Adding possible traffic lights and an addition in traffic will increase the time to travel Greenwald significantly.

My view on all of these BLM discussions is that we must keep this BLM land for its limited recreation. A Memorandum of Agreement between the BLM and the City charges the City to send its Special Enforcement staff to patrol the land and control debris and illegal use of it, e.g. shooting and riding ATV vehicles.

The City has been in negotiation to lease this BLM land. This lease states, “The proposal to lease the BLM land declared as open/natural public recreation space that will allow residents of Canyon Lake to continue to use the land for hiking, bicycling, picnicking and fishing.”

The City of Canyon Lake hopes the efforts it is putting in with a budget of $45,000 per annum for Special Enforcement will encourage the BLM to lease the land. Whether these negotiations are still ongoing, and whether the City is paying these Special Enforcement wages currently, will be interesting to find out.

The City of Canyon Lake should be proactive in ensuring that public safety, conservation and recreation go hand in hand when thinking what use these lands may be put to.

The financial benefit to the City for developing BLM land will be miniscule compared to the loss of home values and the loss of its rural image.

Larry Greene

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land encompasses approximately 700-plus acres adjacent to the of the City of Canyon Lake and is within the sphere of influence of the City. Discussion with the BLM regarding this property has been ongoing for years. It now appears within the next two years Canyon Lake can purchase this land.

Only a portion of this acreage can be developed; the east side of the North Ski Area and behind the Jump Lagoon. The west side of the North Ski Area must remain an open space for an animal refuge and conservation zone.

Many questions about development of this land must be addressed. What impact will this have on our roads, lake access, water, sewer, public safety, police and fire, infrastructure and  POA membership. How will “Fair Share Costs” be generated? Will it be a special district like Mello-Roos?

The City Council has commissioned a consulting firm to address how much land can be developed, property tax revenue and density issues. The report is due to be presented to Council in October or November 2016.

Open space around Canyon Lake is rapidly being developed. Western Riverside County is the new Orange County. We must be proactive in addressing this development and its impacts in order to make this a master planned addition to Canyon Lake.

If you have any questions, feel free to message me. I can be found on Facebook at Larry Greene for City Council 2016.

David Eilers

There are two parcels of BLM land. The first is a small parcel that consists of about 150 acres just north of the Jump Lagoon, but I don’t believe anything will be done with this parcel. The other parcel is the largest and it consists of about 600-700 acres. It begins just north of the North Causeway on either side of the Slalom Ski Area.

The west side will probably never be developed because it’s too rigid and most importantly there is a corridor through the land that animals travel through. This land should be left open for bike trails, walking trails and horse trails. Between the environmentalists and Fish and Game, they will never allow this portion to be developed.

The land that is east of the Slalom Ski Area and north of Station 60 can be developed. I am in favor of developing this land if it is determined to be in the best interest of the City of Canyon Lake.

There is a lot of speculation regarding the number of homes that can be built and the amount of the tax dollars that can be generated for the City. I have heard anywhere from 800 to 1,000 homes could be built, generating anywhere from $650,000 to $1,000,000 in tax revenue per year. No one knows for sure.

The City has stated that no formal study has been made. It is my opinion that a study should be conducted to determine the actual facts. If the data indicates that that it would be a positive action for the City, then I believe the City should negotiate a contract with a developer to purchase the land, moving forward with the best terms for the City and all the members of our community.

Those terms should definitely include separate entrance and exits to the subdivision.  There are two sides to this puzzle. The first side is the City side, which I just outlined. The other side concerns the impact on the POA, which future Boards would have to determine. They would need to determine whether or not to allow the new area to become a part of the POA, weighing the pros and cons and allowing the members to vote on this matter.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me by email at david.a.eilers@gmail.com or by phone at 949-433-2970.

Jordan Ehrenkranz

The Council has been discussing this for the last several years with various agencies to see what would be the best possible use of this land. It is apparent that housing developments are being built all around us, adding to additional traffic and wear and tear on the infrastructure. The City is not aware yet that the BLM land is available to us. There is so much yet to be determined.

The City does have a responsibility to its citizens to protect them from others that might want to take away our open space. It would be in the City’s best interest to purchase the land (if the City could afford to) and keep it for future development that the City could

control. This would enable the City to dictate the terms and conditions to any developer as to what future development the City would approve.

The City would expect the developers to comply with all the residents needs. Example: parks, recreation sites, open trails for walking, biking and horseback riding, just to name a few.

As I have previously stated, this is an ongoing discussion and my thoughts are that this is still something that has not been presented as an action item.

Randy Bonner

The future of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) property in Canyon Lake has been under discussion for years. The BLM is “an island” in Southern California. This region goes east to Arizona and south to Mexico, with Salton Sea the largest.

After much investigation, I have found out that there are major misinterpretations of how the land would possibly be acquired and how it affects the City of Canyon Lake short term and the Property Owners Association (POA) long term.

Once approved, the BLM preference is for the City to purchase the property and make future land rights decisions. However, the City does not have the financial resources to make that type of acquisition.

The next alternative would be for a developer to purchase some property adjacent to existing BLM property elsewhere for expansion. The developer would “trade” that property for the BLM in the City. The City would take the lead on how and when the property is developed – roads, parks, schools, etc. paid by the new homeowners.

The BLM property that can be developed for new homes, and new property taxes for the City is east of the North Causeway and directly behind Station 60. Entrance to this would be roads along Goetz Rd. It would be within the City. For it to become part of the POA it would take a vote of 50 percent plus one of the POA members. Also, it would take a vote of the people in the new project.

The BLM land west of the North Causeway is rugged terrain and not conducive for building new homes. This property could be used in adventure activities in partnership with the State Fish and Wildlife and Riverside Conservation Authority.

The Lake Elsinore Planning Department and City Council has “blessed” a development northwest of the North Gate. However, the current location could “close” the corridor that allows migration animals to get from Southern Riverside County across under Interstate 15 and continuing south. The State Fish and Wildlife and the Riverside Conservation Authority would not allow this corridor to be closed without substantial changes.

The BLM today is pristine. Thanks to the City Code Enforcement for having signs with rules and regulations. They removed trash from the BLM, had incapacitated vehicles towed away, and stopped illegal fishing and weapon firing.

In closing, this BLM property will be sold! I think it is a must that we be prepared.

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Donna Ritchie