The Lake Elsinore Planning Commission meeting Tuesday night saw high turnout as nearly 50 people – mostly Lakeland Village residents and property owners – showed up to hear about plans to standardize development on the water.
The commission was scheduled to vote on whether to amend the city’s municipal code that would pave the way for proposed new boat dock, boat launch and pier standards at the water’s edge.
After hearing more than an hour of commentary from nearly a dozen people in the audience, the commissioners voted 3-2 to continue the issue to their June 5 meeting in order to allow residents and property owners more time to provide feedback to the city about the proposed standards.
Commissioner Rick Morsch and Chairwoman Shelly Jordan voted against the continuation. Morsch sat on a subcommittee that worked to draft the proposed standards. He told the commission and audience there were seven meetings over the course of nine months -- including two public meetings -- regarding Tuesday’s draft proposal.
Morsch said the proposed standards were a way of giving property owners an "off-the-shelf" template for building on the lake without the burden of a conditional-use permit. According to city documents, the proposed standards would also provide uniform safety and aesthetics on the lake.
But most in the audience had concerns and were dissatisfied with the proposed standards.
“Almost every argument has been heard over and over again,” Morsch said of the public comments heard Tuesday night. “We have had this discussion. We’re never going to find agreement on all the issues. I am reluctant to carry this on any further.”
Some in the audience said they hadn’t seen the proposed standards until Tuesday. Jordan repeatedly let public speakers exceed a three-minute time limit set for individual comments, and she allowed the commission to take questions from the audience during the meeting.
The commission’s Vice Chair Michael O’Neal, along with commissioners David Blake and John Gonzales, voted in favor of the continuation, largely to spare City Council. While amending a chapter of the city’s municipal code was up for consideration Tuesday, the details of the boat dock standards would be left to City Council.
To avoid a repeat of Tuesday night’s lengthy and sometimes contentious meeting, O’Neal said he wanted to ensure property owners’ concerns were addressed before handing off the proposed standards to City Council.
Trepidation from property owners ran the gamut from worry about the city’s permit process and annual fees outlined in the proposed draft, to unsafe design standards, a new mandate that would require the city to be named additionally insured by property owners who build onto the lake, and the perception by several in the audience that the city is trying to control unincorporated Lakeland Village.
“This was no Trojan Horse way of trying to annex Lakeland Village,” assured Pat Kilroy, Lake Elsinore’s director of Parks and Recreation. He said lake safety and aesthetics were the goal of the new standards that he contended are a “reasonable middle ground.”
But Lakeland Village resident Pete Dawson, an avid boater who serves on the all-volunteer Lake Elsinore Marine Search and Rescue, said “concessions to Lake Elsinore set a precedent” and he wanted to see more county input on the new standards.
Lakeland Village property owner Ben Butterfield concurred.
“Lakeland Village would just as soon not get involved with the city,” he said.
But City Attorney Barbara Leibold clarified that the city only has jurisdiction over the lake’s surface, as well as property within the city’s boundaries, not property in unincorporated area.
Repeatedly, Leibold reminded commissioners and the audience that the issue before them Tuesday night was whether to recommend the land use ordinance, not whether to approve the proposed boat dock standards.
Residents and property owners will have their chance to address the commissioners again on June 5 when the boat dock standards issue comes back. Those who want to submit concerns can send them to the Lake Elsinore Planning Commission (click here for email addresses).
Click here to read the proposed boat dock standards presented during the May 1 meeting.