Riverside County "not able" to recommend approval of Paradise Valley project
The new city proposed for the southern border of Joshua Tree National Park, took a hit this week as the first staff report was issued on the Paradise Valley project for an upcoming Riverside County Planning Commission meeting on August 21.
"It is our conclusion that staff is not able to recommend approval of the project at this time."
"It is our conclusion that staff is not able to recommend approval of the project at this time. Several concerns and questions raised by staff, the Planning Commission, other agencies, and the public remain not addressed in a satisfactory manner. The options, from staff's perspective, are for either the Planning Commission to 1) Direct staff to prepare findings and a Recommendation for Denial based on the significant concerns noted in this staff report and testimony and questions raised at prior Planning Commission Hearings; or 2) Continue Off- Calendar_and request that the applicant address the concerns stated herein and at prior Planning Commission Hearings, work with staff to make further revisions to the project to address the concerns set forth below, and bring the project back to the Planning Commission for future consideration. This may potentially require recirculation of the environmental document for public review. "
The Paradise Valley proposal comes from GLC Enterprises LLC, and would create a new city, with nearly 8,500 homes, commercial construction, and additional development on nearly 1,900 acres of environmentally sensitive dry wash habitat for the threatened desert tortoise and other wildlife and plants.
The Riverside County Planning Commission meeting is still set for Wednesday, August 21, in Palm Desert. At this time, we still encourage concerned citizens to attend, to speak out in support of the concerns voiced in the staff report, and against allowing the project to proceed as planned.
Wednesday, August 21, 9:30 a.m.
RIVERSIDE COUNTY PLANNING COMMISSION
STEVE ROBBINS ADMINISTRATION BUILDING
Coachella Valley Water District - Administration Board Room
75515 Hovley Lane East, Palm Desert, CA 92211
The staff report provides the history and reasoning behind the position that the project cannot be recommended for approval at this time, and refers to concerns involving the Coachella Valley Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan:
"Four noticed public hearings have been held before the Planning Commission; on November 28, 2018, December 5, 2018, January 30, 2019, and June 5, 2019, all of which were then continued. Public testimony has been provided by dozens of speakers, and questions have been raised by members of the Planning Commission and the public. Several meetings have been held with the applicant, staff from the Coachella Valley Conservation Commission (CVCC), the California Department of Fish & Wildlife (CDFW), and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS), and correspondence has been received from these agencies, as well as responses from the applicant to the agency comments. Meetings have also been held with members of the Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity, National Parks Conservation Association, California Native Plant Society, and Eastern Coachella Valley Leadership Council.
Staff has not provided a recommendation to the Planning Commission prior to this staff report.
"This project is very large in size and scope. It is located on undeveloped land that is in an environmentally sensitive conservation area that is an important component of the CVMSHCP. It is an entirely new community that is removed by several miles from other existing communities and other public services, which requires that it be designed as a largely self-sustaining community that will require the extension and/or building of major infrastructure and facilities to serve this future community. As such, it requires very careful vetting and consideration, and the ample opportunity for comment that is provided through the extensive public review and hearing process that this project has undergone has provided for such vetting and consideration by staff and the Commission. Staff has carefully considered all of the testimony, questions raised, answers and comments provided, follow-up discussions with the applicant and interested parties, and correspondence received, as we arrive at the recommendations that are being presented in this staff report."
Given staff's remaining issues of concern, it is not able to recommend the appropriate findings to the Planning Commission at this time that would be needed to approve the project. In order for the County to approve the project, including GPA No. 686, it would have to adopt certain findings for an Entitlement/ Policy General Plan amendment, a Foundation Amendment, and to establish consistency with the Eastern Coachella Valley Area Plan of the Riverside County General Plan.
In order for the County to approve the proposed project, the following findings are required to be made as part of the adoption of an Entitlement/Policy General Plan amendment:
A. The proposed changes do not involve a change in or conflict with:
1. The Riverside County Vision;
2. Any General Plan Principle; or
3. Any Foundation Component designation in the General Plan except as otherwise expressly allowed.
B. The proposed amendment would either contribute to the achievement of the purposes of the General Plan or, at a minimum, would not be detrimental to them.
Additionally, one or more of the following findings would also need to be made:
C. Special circumstances or conditions have emerged that were unanticipated in preparing the General Plan.
D. A change in policy is required to conform to changes in state or federal law or applicable findings of a court of law.
E. An amendment is required to comply with an update of the Housing Element or change in State Housing Element law.
F. An amendment is required to expand basic job opportunities (permanent jobs, exclusive of any jobs created by construction of the project itself), that contribute directly to Riverside County's economic base and that would improve the ratio of jobs-to-workers in the County of Riverside.
G. An amendment is required to address changes in public ownership of land or land not under Board of Supervisors' land use authority.