Eblast December 2, 2017

-  Community Plans Comment period deadline: Dec.15, 2017
-  National Park fee increase Comment period extended: Dec. 22, 2017
-  Palen Solar Project Comment period deadline: Dec. 11, 2017

Dear MBCA Members and Supporters,

I hope you had a great Thanksgiving with family and friends. We have so much to be thankful for in the Morongo Basin.

The Basin is experiencing growth and more is certain. Along the way, we’ve learned much about working with the County to communicate the concerns of our communities about development that threatens to spoil the characteristics we value. We have the opportunity now to establish more effective measures to serve our communities and protect the natural resources in the Morongo Basin with the San Bernardino County 2018 Countywide Plan.

This MBCA Eblast is devoted to explaining the meaning and status of the Community Plans and why it is so important for you to express concern by submitting a comment by the deadline
.

Deadline to submit Comments on Community Plans: Dec 15, 2017

Countywide Planning
The 2018 Countywide Plan will be the basis for the Development Code and Ordinances that guide County land use decisions and other critical actions. The Countywide Plan carries the force of law and all unincorporated communities in the Morongo Basin are affected.

Given that the Policy Plan component of the 2018 Countywide Plan is not yet available, we are only being asked to comment on the draft Community Plans. The difficulty of this is that we do not have knowledge of the policy and development codes that will enforce the goals, vision, and characteristics defined in the Community Plans.

The frustrating and ill-conceived process for revising the 2007 General Plan and Community Plans must be acknowledged! Many Morongo Basin and Lucerne Valley residents have voiced concerns that the policies in the existing Community Plans are being completely eliminated or replaced by what the County admits are really only “Suggested Action Plans.”

Our Position
MBCA, together with MDLT/ Mojave Desert Land Trust, LVEDA / Lucerne
Valley Economic Development Association, and HVCC / Homestead Valley
Community Council contend (and this has been acknowledged by the
County) that the draft Community Plans are essentially Suggested Action
Plans. As such the Community Plans do not meet the requirements of the
State of California for them to be adopted directly into the County General Plan. The Community Plans – not Suggested Action Plans - must be incorporated into the Countywide Plan to ensure they have legal standing under CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act)!

It is important that County Planning staff hear our concerns that they are eliminating policy from our Community Plans. Suggested Action Plans are not Community Plans. Real Community Plans must be adopted into the Countywide Plan.

Actions identified in plans have suggested Community advocates lead the various Actions. Many of these suggestions are simply off-base. Hypothetical organizations are imagined to form to meet anticipated needs and in other cases, existing organizations are nominated inappropriately. Other organizations with long-standing roles in serving the community have been overlooked.

For example, in the case of Joshua Tree, the Chamber of Commerce is named in numerous Actions – however, the Chamber was never contacted to explore the feasibility of their championing these responsibilities. With a paid staff of one at the JT Chamber, the County should have known that was a “pie in the sky” solution. The Joshua Tree National Park Association was a second organization mentioned – however, taking on community service of this nature is not within their mission. In the Pioneertown Plan a couple of the organizations are listed that haven’t functioned for years. The County cannot assume the community will  - or even can - undertake the Actions in the Plans. It is beyond unreasonable. These communities are “severely economically distressed” and lack the infrastructure and resources to assume responsibility for the Actions listed.

The County cannot shirk the need to provide the leadership and governance – planning and implementation - required. We understand that community residents have vital roles in the fabric of their neighborhoods and community organizations. The rural desert communities are vibrant and resilient. But, they cannot be expected to take on the roles outlined in these Plans as presented. LVEDA’s comments document Action by Action how the community has worked in substantive ways to address egregious developments with County staff – particularly renewable energy in rural residential areas –and efforts have not been successful. What guarantee is there that these Action Plans will provide them with the protections they have clearly proactively called for over recent years?

Residents in Joshua Tree have also protested the Action Plan approach.
The community largely advocates building on the 2007 Joshua Tree Community Plan to revise it with the knowledge of developments that have surfaced since it was first written and to give it additional specificity.

The Community Plans are intended “to guide local expectations for County services and set a clear direction for the future of each unincorporated community.”  They are to “provide planning and implementation guidance for communities as they pursue their own unique lifestyle choices and goals.” The Suggested Action Plans fall short of these stated goals and threaten to leave desert communities without adequate tools for support and enforcement from the County.

Specific Communities
The current Community Plan Continuum is described by Land Use Services as a new system of community planning. It is to include a hierarchy of plan-types that reflect levels of housing, commercial and industrial businesses, schools, library, recreational facilities, and the religious and civic organizations available in the particular community. Plan-types run from the more developed communities’ Detailed Plans and scale down to Framework Plans, Foundation Plans, and Fundamental Plans.

MBCA holds that every community must have the protections of a Detailed Plan, regardless of the services, extent of the built environment, and organizations present. Don’t sell Pioneertown and Homestead Valley Communities, the Morongo Valley, and Wonder Valley short!

We suggest that your comments address environmental and economic concerns affecting your community specifically, as well as the wider Basin.
Including:
  • climate change
  • ecological concerns – wildlife corridors, species protections
  • renewable energy
  • natural resources – water, soils, air, open space & scenic qualities
  • population growth
  • growth of tourism
  • dark skies
  • traffic and transportation
  • county services – health and welfare
Pick the issue or two issues that you are particularly passionate about or concern you most. Use the links in the Resources listed below to view Planning Documents on the County’s website. These will be helpful to review and identify the scope of issues facing desert communities.

Read and Comment on your Community Plan by clicking links below:

Joshua Tree
 – Draft Detailed Community Plan (aka Suggested Action Plan) and the 2007 Joshua Tree Community Plan

Pioneertown Communities
 (Gamma Gulch, Pioneertown, Pipes Canyon, Rimrock) – Foundation Plan.

Homestead Valley Communities
 (Flamingo Heights, Johnson Valley, Landers, Yucca Mesa) - Framework Plan.

Morongo Valley
 - Framework Plan.

Wonder Valley
 – “The County is preparing your webpage.”

Resources
Use these links to view Planning Documents on the County’s website. These will be helpful to review and identify the scope of issues facing desert communities.
   (or just the Development Code PDF)

Also, here are two support documents created by MBCA Director Pat Flanagan:
A compilation of the Actions suggested in the Joshua Tree Detailed Community Plan (aka Suggested Action Plan) that illustrates the unrealistic list of the draft Plan’s suggested projects and actions.

A sample result from utilizing keyword searches of County documents
 to find references to your specific issues and concerns (for example “scenic”).

Where to send Comments:
Either:
  • online: through the link associated with your draft Community Plan (link above) or;
  • e-mail or snail mail to:
         Jerry L. Blum, Countywide Plan Coordinator
         County of San Bernardino
         Land Use Services Department
         385 North Arrowhead Avenue, 1st floor San Bernardino, CA. 92415-0110

         CountywidePlan@lus.sbcounty.gov

         (include your signature, printed, name, street address)

Two more issues briefly….

EXTENDED Comment period: fee increase to JTNP
Deadline is December 22, 2017 to submit comments to: NPCA.org/fees 

Also call our elected official in D.C., Representative Paul Cook
(760/247-1815) and County Supervisor, James Ramos (909/387-4855) – urge them to oppose the entrance fee increase and support the National Park Service Legacy Act!

Palen PV Solar Project Comment period
Deadline to submit comments: December 11, 2017

Read MBCA’s response to Palen Supplemental DEIS, Sept. 13, 2016 that addresses air quality impacts from location sited on Sand Transport Corridor and lack of AQMD regional monitoring for fugitive dust / PM10-2.5:

In closing
Wow – there’s always something isn’t there! It is more important than ever for us to maintain our resolve! If not now: maybe never. If not us: who? The residents in the Basin have shown remarkable sensitivity, intelligence, and willingness to defend the values of our communities. Don’t let up! Let local and national representatives know who we are and what we’re prepared to defend! 

Cheers,

Sincerely,
Sarah Kennington, MBCA President

Your 2017 MBCA Board
David Fick, Vice President                         Steve Bardwell, Treasurer
Marina West, Recording Secretary              Pat Flanagan, Director
Meg Foley, Director                                   Ruth Rieman, Director
Claudia Sall, Director for Events                 Seth Shteir, Director
Laraine Turk, Director
MBCA advocates for a healthy desert environment that nurtures the region’s rural character, cultural wealth and economic well-being.

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