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Lake Elsinore Residential Developments Exempted From County's Conservation Plan

Alberhill Ranch and Canyon Hills projects get a pass from the planning commission on the Western Riverside County Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan.

The Lake Elsinore Planning Commission has given the green light to two separate residential developments in the city, and both will be exempt from the Western Riverside County Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan.

The commission was unanimous in its decision to adopt resolutions approving residential design review for 51 new single-family detached homes in the Alberhill Ranch community and 46 new single-family units in Canyon Hills.

Commission Vice Chair Phil Mendoza was absent Tuesday night.

Both projects are part of their respective specific plans.

The commission also voted 4-0 that the Alberhill Ranch project be exempt from the Western Riverside County Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan; a unanimous vote also approved the same exemption for the Canyon Hills project.

According to Lake Elsinore City Attorney Barbara Leibold, the city provides the exemption based on a settlement that was approved by the Riverside County Board of Supervisors in February 2004.

The settlement was reached after a legal challenge to the county arose from David H. Murdock -- and his conglomerate Castle & Cooke -- to the Western Riverside County Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan that was adopted in 2003.

Castle & Cooke objected to the plan’s mandate that allows for development on protected area in exchange for conservation elsewhere.

Castle & Cooke is the developer behind the Alberhill Ranch community. The company controls most of the mining operations in the city and has land interests that extend across thousands of acres in Lake Elsinore.

Paulie Tehrani, an Alberhill Ranch resident, said the 2004 settlement came after the county was threatened with a lawsuit by Castle & Cooke.

“They (the county) never went to trial,” she said. “They settled.”

Commissioner Rick Morsch expressed concern that he was approving the exemptions without first reviewing documentation on the settlement.

None of the settlement language was provided to him by city staff in preparation for Tuesday’s vote, he said.

“I’m not in the habit of endorsing something I haven’t seen,” he said.

Leibold assured Morsch that the 2004 settlement provided for the exemption.

Ryland Homes is the applicant on the Alberhill Ranch project and Pardee Homes is the applicant on the Canyon Hills project.

Also on Tuesday night, the planning commission voted to approve its chair and vice chair for the 2011-12 fiscal year that begins July 1.

In a 3-0 vote, Commission Chair John Gonzalez was approved to return for another term. He abstained from the vote.

Commissioner Shelly Jordan was approved as vice chair in a 4-0 vote. She will replace current Vice Chair Phil Mendoza.

Ken Mayes June 22, 2011 at 02:56 PM
"Commissioner Rick Morsch expressed concern" but he voted for it anyway. Ain't that typical.
Diana June 22, 2011 at 04:29 PM
If the Alberhill development is exempt from Species Conservation plan then why when the Fresh and Easy tried to come in were they not also exempt from this plan? Just what we need more housing and cars for a town that already has inadequate roads to handle those that already live here. The plus is that I'm sure the City will stick the developer to finish the widening and improvement on Lake St.
Anthony June 23, 2011 at 01:40 AM
Castle & Cooke is the developer behind the Alberhill Ranch community. The company controls most of the mining operations in the city and has land interests that extend across thousands of acres in Lake Elsinore. No one wants to mess with this POWERFUL Company. Makes you wonder who's pockets are getting lined? Once again it all comes down to GREED! What a disgusting shame that people with excessive money just don't care. They just want more, more, more. And will step on any one who gets in there way....>
Robert Hartford June 23, 2011 at 06:51 AM
I remember reading that Castle & Cooke contributed to the campaigns of at least two of the city council members....

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