The Redlands city council voted 5-0 Tuesday night to accept a report relating to possible historic and scenic designation of privately-owned property totaling 67.19 acres below Panorama Point in east Redlands.
Some people spoke out against allowing further development on the property, in part because city staff have also "discussed with the property owner the establishment of a preliminary plan which demonstrates developable areas of the project site," according to city staff.
"Historic designation has nothing to do with development," east Redlands resident Amanda Frye told the council.
The property, identified by the street address 12261 Wabash Avenue, is also known as Crystal Springs Ranch, and the owners are identified by city staff as Woody LLC and JAW Land and Trading Company.
The owners, who have not been identified by name, "strongly object" to designation of the property as a historic resource, an attorney representing them said in a March 31, 2011 letter to the city's Development Services Department.
"This firm represents Woody LLC and JAW Land and Trading Company, the owners of the above-referenced property," the letter signed by Jennifer M. Guenther states. "We have recently been informed that an Application for Designation of Historic Resource has been submitted by a Pamela Smyth requesting that the entirety of the Property be designated a historic resource by the City of Redlands. . . .
"The owners strongly object to the designation of the Property as a historic resource at this time," the letter states. "Ms. Smyth has never approached the owners or their representatives to discuss this issue and has submitted this application without an adequate understanding of the issues related to the underlying property that must be resolved before any such step should be considered."
Immediate concerns on the property include erosion and right-of-way, Guenther said.
"(Q)uestions have been raised with regard to the right-of-way along Sunset Drive and whether or not the land for a portion of the roadway was properly dedicated," Guenther said.
"In addition to the right-of-way issues, a burden related to drainage and storm water run-off has been placed on this property, resulting in damage and erosion of a portion of the north facing slope, as well as along the freeway," Guenther said. "This is an immediate concern given the potential effects on slope stability and area runoff capabilities."
The update on the property Tuesday night was described on the May 1 council agenda as "Receive and file report relating to the possible historic and scenic designation" of the property.
"Since the meeting of March 6, 2012, staff has discussed with the property owner the establishment of a preliminary plan which demonstrates developable areas of the project site," a city staff report for May 1 states.
"The property owner has agreed to commission a civil engineer to prepare a plan in accordance with zoning and slope density regulations of the Redlands Municipal code," the staff report for May 1 states. "At this time, the civil engineer is continuing to work to complete this plan; upon receipt, staff will bring this item for Council review."
Several citizen groups want historic and scenic designation for the property, and to see it preserved as is, Frye said in interviews earlier this week.
Frye and the Citizens of Redlands for Redlands have also raised questions about "irregularities" in the property history.
"Since February 2011, the Citizens of Redlands for Redlands have been assisting in the Historic and Scenic Designation of the Property known Crystal Springs . . . ," an April 30 letter from the group states.
"During this time, members . . . have researched many documents associated with this property and talked to many people that have knowledge about the property history.
"During this time we have come across many irregularities that appear to be possible violations of California Legal Code," the letter states. "We believe that the proper authorities should investigate these and other possible wrongdoings associated with this property."
On Monday, Smyth said groups that have shown interest and support for historic and scenic designation include the Redlands Conservancy, the Redlands Area Historical Society, the Redlands High School Junior Area Historical Society, Redlands Residents for Rural Living, the Redlands Good Neighbor Coalition, and the Redlands Association.
According to minutes of the council on March 6, "Smyth presented her rationale for preserving Crystal Springs Ranch citing the historical significance, natural beauty and ecological importance of the area.
"Representing the property owner, Pat Meyer offered alternatives to designating the entire ranch in an attempt to mitigate the financial impact on the owner," the March 6 minutes state.
Reached Tuesday before the council meeting, Meyer did not respond to a request for perspective on the Citizens of Redlands for Redlands claims of "irregularities" in the property history.