The Idyllwild Downtown Historic District review board met last Thursday afternoon at the Idyllwild Library. The public meeting was scheduled to begin at noon, but with only two board members then present — Chair Warren Monroe and Barbara Jones — a third board member was required for a quorum. Board member Ron Kammeyer did not arrive until just before 1 p.m., but the hour did not pass in silence.
During the one-hour wait for a quorum, Sanders Chase, a member of the public who owns property along the north side of North Circle Drive, publicly indicated his intention to speak to the board regarding new business not on the agenda. He voiced his displeasure at the meeting delay, that he had not been able to get anyone in government to do anything about trees that third parties had cut down on his property without his permission, and that Idyllwild was not like it used to be 30 years ago in terms of community-protection spirit. Monroe attempted to deal with Chase’s tree issue informally during the wait, but clearly not to the satisfaction of Chase.
When the meeting was called to order at about 1 p.m., there was only one matter on the agenda, an item of old business involving the building at the base of North Circle Drive downtown that formerly housed The Greek Place. Monroe stated that it presented an interesting question because the former occupants should have sought approval for changes they made to the exterior front of the building, but did not, and the present occupants are not interested in making any changes, so they’re not applying for approval of anything. It appeared that the matter would require further research.
When Monroe opened the meeting to new business not on the agenda, Chase filed his request-to-speak form with the board and outlined his problem. He alleged that third persons had cut down trees on his vacant lot on the north side of North Circle Drive, just east of Idyllwild Heating and Cooling, without his permission, and he wanted the board to take some action regarding it.
In an interview with the Town Crier, Chase stated that it was his understanding after hiring an experienced tree service to investigate that some 47 trees were cut down on his property. In a brief visit to the site, the Town Crier was able to identify at least 18 trees of 4-inch diameter or greater that appeared to have been recently cut.
By ordinance, the review board has authority to comment on alteration permit applications before the county planning director makes a decision, and Monroe quoted from a Riverside County publication entitled “Design Guidelines for Idyllwild Downtown Historic District,” which states that an alteration includes the “placement or removal of any exterior objects such as signs, plaques, light fixtures, street furniture, walls, fences, steps, plantings and landscape accessories affecting the exterior visual qualities of an existing building, structure or façade within the boundaries” of the district.
Monroe then stated that since there was no “existing building, structure or façade” on Chase’s lot, the matter appeared outside the purview of the review board.
Chase responded that he thought the board should take a broad view of its function and consider that the removal of his trees affects not only the building that houses Idyllwild Heating (which is on an adjacent lot also owned by Chase) but, in a general sense, all the buildings up and down North Circle Drive and even the entire Idyllwild Downtown Historic District. The whole of North Circle Drive is included within the district’s boundaries.
Monroe iterated that the absence of an existing building, structure or facade on the lot where the trees were cut appeared to exclude Chase’s trees from the board’s jurisdiction, but he stated that the matter would be referred to staff.
Immediately following adjournment, Monroe informally suggested that Chase write the board of supervisors seeking to broaden the district’s charter and also that he consult legal counsel about this matter.
Later, when asked by the Town Crier what he expected the review board to do for his problem, Chase stated that, while it appeared that technically the board had only an advisory capacity regarding applications for alteration permits, he felt the board could have taken a position and issued a public statement to the effect that anyone seeking to cut down trees within the historical district needs to first go through the application for alteration process.
Chase told the Town Crier he has attempted to resolve this matter informally with the persons involved, but that has not been successful. He said he has not filed a civil legal action regarding this incident.