JOSHUA TREE — After 10 years of community outreach, the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors has officially squashed a large-scale development project that would have brought 248 new homes into the desert landscape surrounding Friendly Hills Elementary School.
Development company YV105 LLC proposed the Altamira gated community back in 2009. The project was designed to span across 105 acres with each home priced around $250,000. At the time, partners in the project said potential homebuyers would include “empty nester” retired couples.
Some residents of the Morongo Basin were outraged about the plan, warning a community that large would affect traffic and commerce and eat up water resources; the plan originally called for each house to have a grass lawn, but that plan was later nixed by the developers.
“No one was supportive of the project; quite the opposite,” Janet Armstrong Johnston, one of the project opponents, said in a press release. “The developers had been previously warned in 2007 by a few community members that the design did not in any way suit the community.”
Dozens of public comments were sent to county planners, questioning the results of a 2014 study that green-lit the project, said Johnston. Developers also held numerous public meetings and discussions with Joshua Basin Water District staff and Center for Biological Diversity representatives about the environmental impacts of the relatively high-density housing project.
The Morongo Basin Municipal Advisory Council unanimously voted for a resolution in opposition to the project.
On April 7, 2016, the planning commission passed the project design and within days, more than 160 community members signed a petition to stop the development, Johnston said.
Community members formed an alliance, JT105, to stop the development. Johnston, a coordinator in the alliance, said she and many others wrote a 66-page document for a possible California Environmental Quality Act lawsuit, which was filed Oct. 28, 2016, after the board of supervisors approved the project.
“Then began the over two years of settlement discussions with the developer’s managing partner, Ron Schwartz,” Johnston said.
After discussing with multiple experts, including the Mojave Desert Land Trust, the developers decided to pull out of the project and the board of supervisors rescinded all of its approvals last month.
The developers still own the land and it is unclear what they will do with it.