Two measures could affect Canyon Lake's future

This picture, taken by Bert Barbay in 2008, shows where Goetz Hill stands in relation to the lake. The freshly bulldozed road was where Sky Blue did bore hole exploration on the hillside in the summer of 2007. Through Measure E, Sky Blue once again seeks approval to excavate and grade its portion of the hillside.

With election day just over a month away, Canyon Lake voters are facing two important issues, the outcomes of which could have an impact on the community for years to come.

? Measure D: “Fire Protection Services Within the City of Canyon Lake” states, "Shall Ordinance No. 148 enacting a special tax to fund the continuation of Fire Station 60 and fire protection services in the City of Canyon Lake be adopted? Yes or No.

? Measure E: “Advisory Vote on the Grading and Potential Development of Goetz Hill” states: Should the area of Canyon Lake commonly known as Goetz Hill be graded for retail development? Yes or No.

There will be official arguments and rebuttals for these measures on the ballot; but in the meantime, proponents and opponents of these measures will be putting out information over the few weeks to influence voter opinions.

According to the City Council, if measure D passes, a special tax (with a five-year limit) will be charged to every parcel in Canyon Lake to fund the operation of Station 60 and fire services provided by Cal Fire/Riverside County Fire.

At its August 7 meeting, the City Council voted (4-1) to approve Ordinance 148, which would set the special tax base at $204 per year, with annual increases (called “escalators”) of no more than seven percent. (Note: Even though Council approved Ordinance 148, it's up to voters whether the ordinance will go into effect.)

The purpose of the annual increase would be to fund the projected increases in Cal Fire/ Riverside County Fire's service costs. If Council were to learn the increase isn't needed for an upcoming year, it could waive or reduce the escalator accordingly. The special tax would be scheduled to begin July 1, 2014, with the seven percent increase automatically taking place each July 1 thereafter, barring Council action. The special tax would sunset in five years.

The City Council sent a 120-day notice of termination to Cal Fire/Riverside County Fire notifying them of the closure of Station 60 should Measure D fail, effective immediately following the November 5 election.

"If Measure D doesn't pass, Station 60 will definitely close. This is not kidding," Mary stated at the August 6 Council meeting.

The City held one informational session on Measure D yesterday, October 3, and will hold three more sessions, all in the City Multi-purpose Room. They are October 8 and 17, at 6:30 p.m.; and Saturday, October 19, at 10 a.m.

Measure E

Measure E is more of an advisory vote, designed to give Council an idea how the community feels about grading a portion of Goetz Hill, located at the southwest corner of the City.

As stated by the City Attorney in the ballot's Impartial Analysis, “The City Council seeks an advisory vote from registered voters in the community as to whether or not the area known as Goat/Goetz Hill should be graded and developed for commercial purposes. The advisory vote does not approve or disapprove the development and does not have the force and effect of law.”

The attorney's analysis continues, "The City Council has not received or processed a written development application. If a complete development proposal is filed with the City, the City still must process the application in accordance with the applicable requirements of federal, state and local law or regulations regarding development approvals and environmental review. The advisory vote does not replace such processing."

Sky Blue, the company that owns about one quarter of the hill within the border of Canyon Lake, has proposed to excavate and grade its portion of the hill into a 15-acre parcel fit for future commercial development. Sky Blue says its proposal includes building a retail center.

During an informational meeting last Saturday in the City Multi-purpose Room, attended by a capacity crowd, Sky Blue attempted to provide information, answer questions and clear up what it considers to be misconceptions about the project.

In summary, Sky Blue says it is seeking permission to remove about six million tons of material from the top and side of the hill, sell the aggregate and grade a portion of the property for a commercial pad. In return, Sky Blue says the City of Canyon Lake will be paid 50 cents per ton (approximately $3 million) over the course of the grading project. Sky Blue principal David Carlton calls this sum a "mitigation fee."

Sky Blue spokesperson John Zaitz says, "The engineers have estimated that approximately six million tons will need to be excavated and the grading company has offered 50 cents per ton to the City of Canyon Lake. The money would be paid by the grading company, either monthly or quarterly, directly to the City." 

John adds, "During the grading period, the grading company would sell the aggregate and collect sales tax on the sale. Whatever portion of the sales tax is due to the City would be forwarded from Sacramento. Later, when the retail center is built, the City could expect to earn developer fees and retail sales tax."

John says that prior to the commencement of grading, the project would go through a rigorous environment and planning process to be conducted by the appropriate agencies. The planning process would allow for public input and oversight opportunities, including setting time schedules and the mitigation of any local impacts from noise, traffic, dust and other areas.

Attendees at Saturday's meeting also got a chance to hear from a representative of TT Group, which owns another 39 acres of the hill adjacent to Sky Blue's parcel. The TT Group parcel is within the Lake Elsinore city limits and is on the side of the hill facing Canyon Lake and Tuscany Hills, with no frontage on Railroad Canyon Rd.

It was explained at the meeting the two companies desire to do a joint project, grading their properties at the same time and creating a commercial pad and retail center twice as large as the one originally proposed by Sky Blue ?  approximately 20 to 30 acres. The TT Group representative said Sky Blue is ahead of TT Group, which is still doing preliminary soil testing and engineering.

He also said TT Group was given easement rights by Pardee (owner of the property on the other side of the hill) to take trucks through its property to Railroad Canyon Rd., most likely to the signal at Station 94.

Neal Grobowski, owner of a company that specializes in the type of grading work Sky Blue and TT Group desire to do, explained at Saturday's meeting how excavation and grading for such a project would take place. He said his company and others like it operate under strict state guidelines regarding noise and dust pollution.

He addressed specific concerns about blasting (“there would be none”), noise (“machinery would not be heard beyond 100 feet”) and dust (“water would be used to control dust; work would cease on windy days”).

He estimated the project would take about five years, depending on the economy and demand for aggregate. He also estimated there would be 150 round-trip truck trips per day to deliver the material.


As expected, the audience had many questions which, for space reasons and due to the fact some haven't been answered yet, won't be answered at this time:

For tax purposes, where would the Point of Sale be located?

Who would be the lead agency?

Does the Surface Mining and Reclamation Act (SMARA) define this as a surface mining operation?

Is this project similar to the quarry project Temecula rejected and Lake Elsinore has on Nicholas Rd.?

How would heavy trucks affect the roadbed and traffic on Railroad Canyon Rd. at the intersections of I-15?

Would there be a performance bond?

Isn't Canyon Lake's Ridgeline Ordinance supposed to protect the community from this type of development?

How much frontage would the finished pad have on Railroad Canyon Rd.?

What guarantee is there that retail companies would want to locate in the shopping center and generate $300,000 per year in sales tax revenue (as claimed by Sky Blue), especially since a center very close to the proposed site has had a tough go of it?

Finally, Vicki Warren brought up the fact that Sky Blue's corporate license is suspended. This week, John answered that question by saying, "Sky Blue neglected to pay a tax bill in May and that has been taken care of. It was an oversight on the administrator's part and has been corrected."

John says another informational meeting is scheduled for Friday, October 11, at 7 p.m. in the City Multi-purpose Room. He also said this week that on Wednesday, Sky Blue lost its lawsuit with the Property Owners Association.