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.