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Email:   i  nfo@sbmlt.net                                                                                                           San Bernardino Mountains Land Trust                                                                              501(3)(C) non-profit organization                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Tax ID# 33-0700417                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          

 

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Media Contacts:

Polly Sauer  
Telephone: 909-806-5284  
Email: pollysauer@sbmlt.net  

 

 

  • Royal Rangers Land Being Sold

  • Wednesday, December 29, 2010 12:00 am

    Wednesday, December 29, 2010

    The 50.31-acre proposed Royal Rangers property in Twin Peaks that has stirred such bitter community opposition for nearly a decade is about to be sold, ending the chance it could be extensively graded to become an adventure camp.

    Instead, the land, which has been in escrow for the past two weeks, is being purchased at fair market value by the San Bernardino Mountains Land Trust. It is destined to be preserved from development by being added to the San Bernardino National Forest, sources told this newspaper.

    Parties to the transaction declined to disclose the price.

    The sale-believed by land trust officials to have been prompted by the cost and complexity of defending an environmental lawsuit against the Royal Rangers' parent organization, the Assemblies of God church-is expected to close by the end of January, said Kevin Kellems, a land trust spokesman.

    "The project will be withdrawn and the Rangers will ask the county to rescind the camp's CUP (conditional use permit) approval and to decertify the EIR (environmental impact report) that accompanied its application," states a joint press statement issued Tuesday by the Royal Rangers and the four environmental organizations that had filed suit to halt the project.

    ON THE LIST

    "We've had an interest in the property for many years," Kellems said. The site has been on the organization's land-acquisition list for the past 10 or 11 years, along with about 50 other sites totaling approximately 40,000 acres, he added.

    The land trust's purpose is to acquire parcels of varying sizes that are adjacent to national forest land and then sell them to the federal government. The idea, its officials say, is to preserve them from development, protecting them in perpetuity by selling them to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That department, in turn, would make them part of the national forest, which falls under its jurisdiction.

    The proposed Royal Ranger camp has had a stormy history, dating back to 2001 when an application to build it was first filed with the county.

    The original proposal drew widespread criticism on numerous grounds, including its size, the number of people it was proposed to serve, problems with emergency evacuation onto narrow, two-lane Highway 189, noise that neighbors feared would reverberate up Strawberry Canyon and expectations the Crestline Sanitation District could not handle the sewage the camp would produce.

    Opponents thought they had scored a big win in August 2005 when the county planning commission unanimously rejected the camp plan. But the Royal Rangers appealed the denial to the board of supervisors, alleging religious discrimination.

    KEPT ALIVE

    Supervisors kept the plan alive at the appeal hearing, giving the applicants 75 days to submit a scaled-down project. The 75 days turned into several months, however, before a new plan was placed before county planners in early February 2006.

    The project's new environmental impact report was finally filed in January of this year, and the project won the backing of the planning commission and then the board of supervisors, who endorsed it 3-0 on Feb. 23.

    Contending the project was still problematic, a coalition of environmental groups filed suit on March 22 to block the camp. They included the San Bernardino Mountains Group of the Sierra Club, Christians for the Earth, the Save Our Forest Association and the San Bernardino Valley Audubon Society.

    Kellems said he believes it was that lawsuit that persuaded the Assemblies of God to abandon the project.

    But the decision did not leave the church without an out, he said. In October of 2009, before supervisors approved the project, the land trust wrote to then-Royal Rangers Superintendent Roy Rachels to ask if his organization would be interested in selling the land.

    The letter, Kellems said, offered to buy the site at a fair-market value, to be determined.

    PREFERRED TO WAIT

    A Royal Rangers representative phoned to say the organization preferred to wait until the county had finished reviewing its application, Kellems said.

    Then, on July 16 of this year, Kellems said the land trust received its answer: A Royal Rangers letter arrived, agreeing to enter into negotiations on a possible sale.

    "I think it was the filing of the lawsuit and the cost of defending it that pushed them to the sale," Kellems said. "They were thinking maybe there would be other options. That's my impression, at least, but the timing fits."

    Asked whether he knows of any potential developments that could halt the sale, Kellems said he can foresee none.

    "I don't see any problems," he said. "We don't have any issues with it. We've done a site inspection and saw nothing that would alarm us."

    The joint press statement noted that, as a normal part of civil lawsuits, "settlement meetings are required and discussions are encouraged to explore if there can be any compromise to complaints outside of the court. In this case, discussions between the Royal Rangers and the petitioners were very productive and the normal settlement time frame was extended twice in order to facilitate an actual resolution."

    'PROLONGED DISTRACTION'

    The statement attributed the Rangers' decision to sell their land and drop the camp project to a desire to avoid "the prolonged distraction of an extended court defense of their project with an indeterminate result" and deference to local residents' concerns about the project's presumed negative impacts on the community and the environment.

    The decision, the statement says, allows the Royal Rangers "to focus their attention back to their fundamental mission."

    Though he did not respond to phone calls requesting a statement, Royal Rangers Southern California District Director Tim Bruder was quoted in the joint statement as saying about the decision to abandon the project, "My concern has always been for the boys."

    "The Royal Rangers have made a difficult decision and I applaud them for it," said Sierra Club representative Steven Farrell. "I appreciate the significant investment they put into this project and regret that we could not have settled on this outcome long ago, as I believe this was the inevitable outcome.

    'COUNTY LET US DOWN'

    "In my view," Farrell continued, "it is the county that once again let us all down for not being scrupulous enough to have long ago simply said no to this inappropriately located project. It would have been better for all of us, and especially for the Rangers."

    The statement says the lawsuit will be dropped after the county's project-withdrawal process is completed.

    The San Bernardino Mountains Land Trust was founded in 1995. Its goal is to save local forest land from development, thereby minimizing urban sprawl.

    The trust does not hold onto property it acquires, according to a fact sheet it provided, but operates with a revolving acquisition fund which finances land purchases and is replenished by land sales to the federal government.

    http://www.mountain-news.com/news/localnews/article_6d20e25f-f43f-52a1-8af5-24833e0fd79c.html 

     

     

     

     

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