This week’s CVAN (Cherry Valley Acres and Neighbors) meeting was very informative. I want to thank CVAN for inviting County Supervisor Marion Ashley to speak. I also want to thank Mr. Ashley for confirming my position regarding his intentions for establishing his Gateway Project Review Committee, the committee I affectionately like to call “The We’ll Find Away Gateway.” Any doubt about whether or not establishing this committee was anything other than a political move by a seasoned politician was eliminated at the Grange Thursday night.
We learned the committee will hold their first meeting April 10th and then meet on the second Thursday of every month for at least the next 10 months. Mr. Ashley expects to receive the committee’s recommendation “around Christmas, maybe early next year.” We learned that the committee will be asked to review all the information and, in the beginning, put aside their objections to the project in order to help make the project be the best that it can be. After this, the committee will evaluate the project with their recommendations and then decide whether or not the project is a good fit for Cherry Valley. I don't need a year of meetings to tell you it's not a good fit. If the committee decides to recommend rejecting the project they then have to offer an alternative use and zoning recommendation to present to Shopoff the land owner/developer. How about telling Shopoff that the general plan had their property zoned as residential before they bought it and they should stick with the plan.
Ashley and the other supervisors have no obligation to follow the committee’s recommendations. I presented to Mr. Ashley the first 1,500 signatures from the No Way Gateway petition. I then asked Mr. Ashley if, in the end, the committee members determine they are fully satisfied with the project and they believe that all the environmental and traffic issues could be mitigated but the city councils, other elected boards and the public was overwhelmingly opposed to the project would he still support the land zone change? He refused to answer. He told us he couldn’t tell us what he would do until the committee completes their task.
Mr. Ashley was also asked if the spot zoning issue could be evaluated and decided upon separately from the Shopoff project. Mr. Ashley said no, everything would be decided at the same time.
The theme throughout the evening was that the committee will become a case study for projects in the future and that it is the best way for the people “to have a say”. The response we will be hearing from Ashley and the other supervisors for the next year is "we have to wait to let the committee do their job." Look for all our other elected officials up for re-election who want to dodge taking a position until sometime in 2015 using the same meme.
None of this surprised me. This is exactly what I expected and predicted. Mr. Ashley and The Shopoff Group have a lot more experience fighting for a controversial project opposed by the neighbors and community than we have fighting to stop one. Early on I was told stopping this was against all odds. I still believe we can.
We need to stay the course. We need to continue to impress upon our local officials how important this is and no matter what Ashley’s “We’ll Find Away Committee” recommends, a warehouse does not belong so close to senior communities and schools. We need them to visualize hundreds of trucks getting off at Cherry Valley and Oak Valley each day. We need them to realize the risk to our health and safety this project will bring to The Pass.
The bottom line here is the bottom line for Shopoff. The Shopoff group needs to understand, regardless of the outcome of the committee and the inevitable vote of confidence from our County Supervisors, this project will cost more in dollars and damage to The Shopoff Group’s reputation than it is worth. We've asked Ashley to listen to his constituents and convince Shopoff to find an alternative. His action has been to run out the clock and shift the reponsibility of doing what's right on to the citizens he is supposed to be working for.
We don’t need to wait until next year. This needs to become the focus of this election where we can hold Ashley accountable for his actions. Ashley is counting on winning a war of attrition and re-election by outlasting our outrage. We need to stay focused and determined. We need to continue to show up at every meeting to express our opposition. When the County holds their meeting to review the Draft EIR (Environmental Impact Report) we definitely need to show up but we still have work to do with our local city councils, school boards, water boards, and business leaders to form a united front against the industrialization of the Pass.
Here are the meetings this week that need our attention:
Monday 6 pm - Riverside County Committee on School District Organization will be holding a public hearing to take public input before they move to bring the Riverside County style of politics we are witnessing from our Supervisor to our local schools.
Tuesday 6 pm - Beaumont City Council will progress towards helping Four Season extend their Mello-Roos debt an additional 10 years. This is an opportunity to remind the Council that our Mello-Roos debt should be used for upgrading the existing interchanges many use daily (Cherry Valley and Oak Valley) before adding a new $80 million interchange on the 60 that will benefit a fraction of the Mello-Roos tax payers. The tax payers the city is depending on for the future of Beaumont.
Wednesday 6 pm - Yucaipa Valley Water District monthly meeting. YVWD has agreed to provide the water for the Shopoff project. We need to introduce "No Way Gateway" to their commissioners and get them to go on record with their individual positions on the project. Then we can alert their rate payers how their future increases will bring more trucks and pollution to our area. They breathe the same air and drive many of the same roads and highways we do.