The Riverside County Planning Commission has scheduled a public hearing next week on the conditional use permit for the Idyllwild Community Center planned for the parcel between Highway 243 and Strawberry Creek. It is now known as the Butterfield Commons on Strawberry Creek, named for the family who donated the land and funds to begin its development.
The planning staff has recommended approval of the CUP. While the hearing will address the total site development, emphasis will be on the first phase, which is the amphitheatre and parking areas.
Jim Marsh, architect for the proposed development of the San Jacinto Mountains Community Center, expressed his delight and happiness that the hearing was finally scheduled. He said, “We’re all very excited to get to this point [and] don’t expect anything unusual nor does the planning staff.” While the Riverside County Board of Supervisors must approve the commission’s decision, Marsh expects construction to begin in early 2017.
According to the planning staff’s findings, the project is consistent with the policies of the multipurpose elements of the general plan and the REMAP. Further, “Strawberry Creek and the associated riparian [and] ravine areas will be completely avoided by the project activities.” This includes the sensitive areas along the creek.
In addition, the staff highlighted that the current planning designation allows for commercial retail development, and the proposed project will cause significantly less affect on the local environs.
“We aren’t aware of any outstanding concern on the staff’s part,” said Janice Lyle, president of the SJMCC board, “This is a definite step forward.”
If the planning commission grants it approval, Lyle said, the construction bids would be solicited, so that they can be poised to begin work once the supervisors take action, which she expects will be after New Year’s.
The construction of the future community center and other facilities are part of the CUP revision, but will also depend upon the availability of water from the Idyllwild Water District and the fire department’s concurrence, too.
Regarding the availability of water, Phayvanh Nanthavongdouangsy, the county planner, wrote, “potable water services and sanitary sewer services [are] from Idyllwild Water District. Water availability in this area is limited; therefore to mitigate impacts to water services, each phase of the project (Phase I-Phase IV) will require a will-serve letter from the water district to proceed forward. … prior to the issuance of a building permit. This will ensure that water is available to support that phase of the project and that impacts to water services is mitigated to a level that is less than significant.”
One area, for which the county required additional mitigation, is the grove oak trees on the site. Inventory and mitigation plans were required to be prepared. While the planned development is designed to avoid negative effects on the oak trees, the San Jacinto Mountain Community Center board has agreed, as part of the plan, to replace trees if necessary.
However, the golden spotted oak borer, alone, has infected and killed nearly 200 trees on the site before any construction has begun.
For those interested in reviewing the mitigated negative declaration prepared for the project, they may contact Nanthavongdouangsy, the principal planner by phone at 951-955-6573 or via email at PNANTHAV@rctlma.org.
For those interested in more facts about the future of the site and the SJMCC board, they have several “frequently asked questions” with answers available at idyllwildcommunitycenter.org/faq/.
The hearing will be 9 a.m., Wednesday, Nov. 2 and will be in the board of supervisors chambers at the Riverside County Administrative Center at 4080 Lemon St., Riverside