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Residents Association of Greater Lake Mathews

RAGLM Board > Proposed Development > Our Community Wins Tentative 2 1/2 ac. Request To Protect Community
9/2/2010 8:27:50 PM
Our Community Wins Tentative 2 1/2 ac. Request To Protect CommunityPost: Cindy Ferry
Many of you have heard me speak of the Michael Garcia project off of Harley John Rd./ Twyla Jane Ln.  This project has been before the county for about 2 years now.  The project has been a horn in my side from the very start.  Not too often is it that this community runs into such arrogant a developer. 
When this project came before this county the developer was told he would need to meet with the residents and present his project before a RAGLM community meeting of the residents.  He was told to contact the RAGLM board to present his project them and that we (the RAGLM board, which I was then a member of) would give him input on the project plans.  At our first meeting Mr. Garcia told of his plans to get this project developed at 1 ac. lots.  We told Mr. Garcia that when a developer came before this county with a request to double the zoning from the current zoning, something was given in trade to the county or the community.  We asked Mr. Garcia what he was offering to the county or the community to justify 1 ac. lots being approved.  We were informed that he didn't have anything to offer, nor did he plan to offer anything in trade for doubling the density in our rural community.  He said that he had the right to request 1 ac. lots and that he was told by the county that he could request 1 ac. lots and that this was what he would be doing.  The talks with Mr. Garcia went downhill from there. 
Talks with Mr. Garcia and his engineering firm (RAMCAM) went nowhere.  We were told there were a number of investors in this project, that he had a friend in the Planning Dept. and that his project would be approved.  We informed Mr. Garcia and  Alex (RAMCAM Engineer) that we would appose the project and fight to protect this area.
When owners of the organic orange grove found out about the proposed project they hired legal representation.  The issues of run-off and pollution issues grew with each meeting that took place.  The lake, the blue-line water streams, the homes downhill and the groves were in jeopardy of a number of negative impacts.  The grove stood to have their organic certification pulled if ANY run-off from this project were to end up on the groves.
This grove has been in our community for many years, I believe about 40.  Protecting this grove, the lake and the blue-line streams became the focus point of our protest for this project, as by this point it became clear to all of us that ANY development of this lot could create problems to the community and the environment.  As we learned more about what was needed to qualify for an organic certification and thereby seeing the effects this project could/would have on this long standing community business we saw how those same impacts would effect much of the community itself ... it's residents and the environmental parts of our community. 
At one of our Planning Commission hearings Mr. Garcia was insistent that he wanted an answer from the commission on his project.  He was unwilling to meet with the community, stated he didn't HAVE TO do so and wanted an answer on his request.  He was told that he had been directed by a number of county departments to meet with RAGLM and the community and had not done so.  He was told that if he wanted an answer on his request the commission would give him one but, he wouldn't like the answer he would get.  He agreed to postpone the project request and to meet with us.  Two weeks after that date I called Mr. Garcia and told him that whenever he was ready to meet with the RAGLM board, we would be glad to do so.  He told me, "When I want to talk to you, I'll call you!" and hung up on me.  He did NOT meet with us and again set a hearing date to go before the Planning Commission.
The project moved on to the Board of Supervisors.  Over this time Mr. Garcia agreed to make the lots 2 ac. rather than 1 ac. lots.  Our current General Plan map showed a 2 ac. zoning area.  However, the zoning prior to the General Plan was 2 1/2 ac. and until a project went before the county, the old zoning stays in place.  So, with all the evidence that had by this point been brought to the floor, it was clear that this area was one that needed specific care in planning of any kind of development.  Run-off systems in other parts of the nearby area have been reported to not work as designed and so we knew that it couldn't just be a report that was a determining factor in this project being approved.  All studies needed full investigated and we needed to know FOR SURE that ANY development here would NOT negatively impact this area of Riverside County.  The county was also put on notice that if the project was approved, the owners of the grove would  sue.  It would be the only option they would have to protect their property, the business and their difficult to obtain certification as an organic grove.
On Tues, Aug. 31, at the 1:30 portion of the Board of Supervisor hearing myself and current RAGLM board members Laurie Taylor, Ralph and Judi Hileman and the owners of the orange grove along with their legal representative and engineers came before the board.  Mr. Garcia had waited until the morning of the hearing to request a postponement.  We felt this was done to waste the time of residents, frustrate us and the grove owners that were paying for the representatives to be there on their behalf.  He had been give more than reasonable time to prepare his studies and reports and should have been ready to present these at the hearing.  A motion to continue the project was presented to the Supervisor.  Since a number of us had turned out to speak on the project as placed on the agenda, the Supervisors agreed to hear us before deciding on the request for a continuation.  After all had spoke Supervisor Buster asked just when it was Mr. Garcia had requested a continuance.  He seemed rather surprised that the request was made at the last hour, just hours before the item was to come to the floor and at a time when notice could not have been given to the residents.  Supervisor Buster stated that he didn't feel a continuance was needed, that ample time had been given to Mr. Garcia and the engineers, that there were just too many factors showing that this project could not be build to enhance, improve or even maintain the quality of the community.  That this along with the concerns for the organic orange grove the project request should move forward and that it should be denied.  The motion to deny was seconded.  County Counsel informed the board that it should be a tentative denial.  The vote for a tentative denial was made, seconded and approved by a five to zero vote of the board.
To watch Tues. hearing on this item, please see the link below.  It should come to the hearing itself (the 1:30 p.m. portion) and on the lower left you will see #7, agenda item 16.1, tentative tract map 32531, change of zone 7026, Environmental Assessment 39735, Michael Garcia, click on that and it will take you right to that portion of the hearing.
Mr. Garcia has the right to file an appeal and I'm sure he will do so.  We will continue to represent this community, to support the organic grove and to fight any and all developers that come into this community with the attitude that we don't matter, that they will do as they wish and basically to hell with us.
You e-mails, letters and phone calls to the county planning department would be of great help in supporting what we said at the hearing and in backing up the Supervisors vote when that appeal comes to the floor.  The county contact info. to send your response to is listed below.
Adam Rush/Planning Dept.
(951) 955-2402 office
(951) 955-1817 FAX
4080 Lemon Street, 9th floor
P.O. Box 1409
Riverside, CA. 92502
You can also send any comments or concerns to:
The Board of RAGLM (Residents Association of Greater Lake Mathews)
(951) 286-4572
P.O. Box 2995
Van Buren Blvd.
Suite A-13, PMB # 41
Riverside, CA. 92503
Stay active people.  You can make a difference.  We do make a difference.  Every effort counts ... that means you count!  Be heard!
Cindy Ferry
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