Approved Minutes, May 14, 2012 Meeting
COACHELLA VALLEY MOUNTAINS CONSERVANCY
73-710 Fred Waring Drive, Suite 115
Palm Desert, California
May 14, 2012- 3:00 p.m.
MEMBERS PRESENT: John J. Benoit, Riverside County Supervisor, District IV
Buford Crites, State Assembly Appointee–(Chairman)
John Donnelly, Wildlife Conservation Board
Jim Foote, U.S. Forest Service (Non-voting Member)
Kristy Franklin, City of La Quinta
John Kalish, Bureau of Land Management
Patrick Kemp, Natural Resources Agency
Eddy Konno, California Department of Fish and Game
Karin Messaros, National Park Service
Chris Mills, City of Palm Springs
Allan Muth, University of California
Paul Riesman, California State Parks
Pedro Reyes, Department of Finance
Larry Spicer, City of Indian Wells
Joan Taylor, Governor’s Appointee
Ellen Lloyd Trover, Senate Rules Committee Appointee–(Vice-Chairwoman)
MEMBERS ABSENT: Russell Betts, City of Desert Hot Springs
William Kroonen, City of Palm Desert
Gordon Moller, City of Rancho Mirage
Sam Toles, City of Cathedral City
Tribe Representative, Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians
STAFF PRESENT: Kevin McKernan, Executive Director
Kerrie Godfrey, Associate Governmental Program Analyst
OTHERS PRESENT: Margaret Park, Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians
Britt Wilson, Management Analyst, City of Rancho Mirage
VACANT POSITIONS: Vacant, Staff Services Analyst
1.0 Call to Order & Introductions
Chair Crites declared a quorum with 15 voting members present at 3:07 pm. Joan Taylor arrived late and was not present to vote on the Resolution 2012-09.
2.0 Approval of Minutes of January 2012 meeting
Chair Crites asked if there were any comments additions or changes to the January 2012 Minutes. There was no further discussion, so a motion was made and seconded (Benoit/Kalish) to approve the Minutes. The motion was adopted by the Board members saying “Aye” in a unanimous vote.
3.0 Public Comments on Items Not on the Agenda Chair Crites asked if there were any comments on any items on the agenda. There were none.
4.0 Action Items – public hearing Chair Crites asked if there was any objections to having the Board hear item 4.6 first because Margaret Park, a representative of the tribe, was there to accept the resolution in honor of Chairman Richard Milanovich. Since there was no objection, the Board addressed item 4.6 out of order.
4.6 Resolution 2012-09 expressing the Conservancy’s appreciation of Richard Milanovich’s service to the Conservancy since establishment until his passing in March 2012.
Chair Crites noted that Richard Milanovich was a founding member of the CVMC Board. He then introduced Margaret Park to the Board and asked Kevin McKernan to do the honor of presenting the resolution for approval. Kevin McKernan noted that more than one Board Member has expressed a desire to honor Richard Milanovich for his service to the Conservancy and the Coachella Valley. With Richard’s many years of service on the Governing Board and his contributions in many other ways as an environmental leader and selfless, dedicated public servant in the Coachella Valley, the suggested dedication of a Conservancy Resolution for his family seems to be a very appropriate way to memorialize his service. Chair Crites asked if Margaret Park would like to say a few words about Chairman Milanovich. Margaret Park then thanked the Board for the recognition of Chairman Milanovich and mentioned that the Board would be holding elections very soon to elect a new Chairman and assured us we would have a new member of our Board by June.
Chair Crites asked if there was any further discussion on the item. Since there was none, he asked for a motion to adopt resolution 2012-09. A motion was made and seconded (Benoit/Mills) to adopt the motion. The motion passed by a unanimous roll call vote of the 14 Board members present.
4.1 Resolution 2012-04 approving a local assistance grant to the Friends of the Desert Mountains for acquisition of approximately 233.31 acres located at the North East Corner of Dillon Road & Sky Ridge Road in the West Deception Canyon Conservation Area.
Kevin McKernan briefed the Board on the parcel that was brought to the Conservancy’s attention a few months ago. He also described the existing conservation around this parcel. He noted that he has had several meetings with JTNP personnel who have a desire to become a bigger presence in the Coachella Valley. He explained that this property in the Sky Valley area of West Deception Canyon Conservation Area has been appraised for $770,000. The owner is a willing seller and would like sell the property for $500,000 and write off the remaining value as a charitable donation. The Friends has requested that the Governing Board approve the bargain purchase in the West Deception Canyon Conservation Area and the Friends will hold the land until such time that the property can be transferred to the JTNP or some other conservation agency in the area.
Joan Taylor asked about her the possibility of her having a conflict of interest since she is a Friends Board Member. Kevin noted that the Attorney General said that she does not have a conflict because Board Members do not benefit from the purchase of the property and neither does the Friends because they are on the hook to raise funds to continue to manage the property.
John Donnelly noted that according to the map it looks like there are trails or OHV activity on the property. Kevin answered; yes, there is an occasional OHV trail or utility road on the property. When gaining control of the property we can make a controlled access through the property to protect it better. It will also protect the sand transport that runs through the property.
Larry Spicer asked if there was a back story that might be of interest to the group; the seller is selling for a quote bargain price. Kevin answered that they have had interested in selling for a while and have tax implications on the appraised value and have asked that the bargain sale be acknowledged as such for this reason to take advantage of the tax benefits. Also, there was interest in developing it and when that fell through it came back to the owners with a larger tax liability.
Larry Spicer asked if CVMC was the one that originally negotiated the deal? Kevin answered that they were referred to us and we referred them to the Friends.
Larry noted that he finds this a very interesting situation. Kevin noted that we have been involved with a number of bargain sales. They happen for numerous reasons. This is a good situation for all involved because the Friends often hold land with no reimbursement for the monitoring that they are required to do. They have negotiated with the property owner directly for this situation.
Kevin McKernan noted that the Friends is requesting a local assistance grant for $500,000 plus closing and transaction related costs to purchase this property.
Chair Crites asked if there was any further discussion on the item. Since there was none he asked for a motion to adopt resolution 2012-04. A motion was made and seconded (Trover/Franklin) to adopt the motion. The motion passed by a unanimous roll call vote of 15 Board members present.
4.2 Resolution 2012-05 approving matching funds grant to the Coachella Valley Conservation Commission for acquisition of approximately 494.76 acres in the Thousand Palms Conservation Area for a Federal Section 6 Habitat Conservation Plan grant and eventual transfer to the California Department of Parks and Recreation.
Kevin McKernan explained that the property is surrounded on the east, north and west by California State Park Indio Hills Palms Property and to the southeast by Washington Ave. and the Coachella Valley Fringe Toed Lizard Preserve. This was also a property that was proposed for development. The development did not go through and it is now owned by a bank. Given the location of this land to the Pushawalla Unit of Indio Hills Palms Property managed by the California Department of Parks and Recreation (CDPR), we anticipate that this land will managed by CDPR in the short term under an MOU, and eventually transferred to their ownership over time. Given the State’s current budget situation and gridlock in land acquisition, coupled with a limited time window of available Federal Section 6 funding, it is critical that the CVCC apply for a WCB Section 6 grant, coupled with a matching grant from CVMC, and take title. CVCC is the most appropriate entity to take title of this property as it adds to conserved lands under the CVMSHCP and serves their role in coordinating plan implementation with the permittees and State and Federal partners. The CDPR has agreed to take on management responsibility for these properties through an MOU. CVCC is also requesting that the Conservancy approve the eventual transfer of the land to CDPR. CVCC has requested that the Conservancy approve a local assistance grant for three parcels consisting of approximately 494.76 acres near the Coachella Valley Fringe Toed Lizard Preserve and in the Thousand Palms Conservation Area. The matching funds grant would consist of funds totaling $1,440,000.00 plus closing costs from CVMC to be coupled with WCB Federal Section 6 grant funds totaling $3,360,000.00 (total appraised purchase price $4,800,000) to acquire the property for an interim period of time.
Paul Riesman explained that one of the problems is a lot of new trails in the area. Specifically, an illegal equestrian trail which went directly through the palm grove and created compaction which was going to have a devastating affect on the palm grove. This proposed acreage is just below this palm grove canyon and would give us a little bit of a buffer before people do get all the way up into the palms. We are now working with the equestrian community to build a legal trail instead of just saying no.
John Benoit wanted to note for the record that the City of Indio is opposed to this acquisition because at the time of the MSHCP was approved the County of Riverside made a 3 year commitment to the City to develop this land. The time has now expired and the City came to us and requested we extend the time for them to find a new buyer. I am very conflicted and want to honor Roy Wilson’s agreement with the City and also understand the predicament the City is in but, I also know that we now have a willing buyer and a willing seller. So this is to provide you with a little background to help you make your decision.
Larry Spicer asked how the City of Indio got involved in this. Supervisor Benoit answered that it was owned by a private developer and now it is owned by the bank and the city would still like to see it developed.
Larry Spicer noted that Indio had an opportunity and the market wasn’t right and they have no willing buyer other than CVCC at this point.
Supervisor Benoit answered that short of granting them another 5 year extension in hopes that the City will find a buyer that is able to develop it, there is no solution because we do not want to prevent the sale on that kind of a small chance this would happen.
Chair Crites asked if there was any further discussion on the item. Since there was none he asked for a motion to adopt resolution 2012-05. A motion was made and seconded (Konno/Trover) to adopt the motion. The motion passed by a unanimous roll cal vote of the 15 Board members present.
4.3 Resolution 2012-06 approving the donation of property by the American Land Conservancy to the United States Forest Service which was initially purchased with a local assistance grant from the Conservancy.
Kevin McKernan explained that this very straight forward and something the Conservancy does often where we provide a local assistance grant and the land is transferred to an agency that has better management capabilities. In 2003 the Governing Board approved Resolution 2002-11 approving a local assistance grant to the American Land Conservancy (ALC) to acquire APN 636-010-001, which consists of 504.8 acres of land in Section 5, Township 7 South Range 5 East at the head of Palm Canyon in the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument. The standard term of Conservancy grants at that point was five years, and it was originally anticipated that the land would be sold by ALC to the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) within that period of time and the grant funds returned to the Conservancy. USFS has not, however, had the funds necessary to acquire the land from ALC and the five year term of the grant expired. CVMC and ALC extended the term of the grant in 2008 in hopes that USFS would be able to come up with the funds to purchase the property to benefit all parties. Recently, however, ALC has determined that it no longer has the capability to hold the property. Due to the lack of identified funding by USFS and any other agency to purchase the subject parcel at this time as intended by extension of CVMC Grant in 2008, CVMC is requesting to authorize the donation of the property to the USFS for perpetual ownership and management and without requiring a repayment of the grant funds. Upon successful transfer of the property to the USFS, ALC will be relieved of the grant conditions set forth in CVMC Grant 015 and subsequent amendments.
Before the ALC can enter into a donation transaction with USFS, the Conservancy needs to approve the transaction pursuant to the terms of the grant agreement whereby the Conservancy provided a local assistance grant to help the ALC purchase the property. The total proposition 12 and 40 grant funds provided by the Conservancy were $915,223.50 in a two phased transaction. Under the terms of the donation, no grant funds would be returned to the Conservancy.
In this instance, because ALC would make the grant to USFS, a conservation easement would not be needed. Nor will the recording of a “Notice of Unrecorded Grant Agreement,” be required of USFS in accordance with CVMC regulations regarding bond accountability, since the following will ensure the permanent conservation of the property. The perpetual ownership and management of the subject parcel by the USFS would also be pursuant to PUBLIC LAW 106–351—OCT. 24, 2000, SANTA ROSA AND SAN JACINTO MOUNTAINS NATIONAL MONUMENT ACT OF 2000 and the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument Resource Management Plan adopted February, 2004, assures compliance with intent of state funds used to acquire the property and that no additional deed conditions are necessary once the property has been conveyed to the USFS. Section 6 of PL 106-351 specifically addresses the incorporation of donated lands into the Monument.
Chair Crites asked if there was any further discussion on the item. Since there was none he asked for a motion to adopt resolution 2012-06. A motion was made and seconded (Reyes/Benoit) to adopt the motion. The motion passed by a unanimous roll call vote of 15 Board members.
4.4 Resolution 2012-07 approving a local assistance grant to the Friends of the Desert Mountains for acquisition of approximately 4.15 acres located in the Hwy111/I-10 Conservation Area.
Kevin McKernan noted that this is a continuation of its March 2011 meeting where the Governing Board was briefed about the HWY 111/I-10 Conservation Area. Since then, offer letters were mailed to willing sellers in the HWY111/I-10 to continue acquisition projects that had begun before the bond freeze and which were part of the Conservancy’s priority projects. One of the landowners recently contacted the Friends with interest to sell his property in this area and requested that the Friends add the adjacent parcel that he owns to the offer. The adjacent parcel was unintentionally omitted from the original appraisal report and was not appraised with the parcel that the Friends sent the offer on. Since the owner requested to sell both parcels and the adjacent parcel was also in the Conservation Area, the Friends had the appraiser update the original appraisal by preparing a restricted report to include the value for the second parcel. This was done to facilitate a prospective acquisition for both parcels.
As you can see from the attached map, these parcels will represent the fourth group of acquisitions in this Conservation Area, thus substantially helping to implement the MSHCP in this area of important wildlife corridors.
The Friends has requested that the Conservancy approve a local assistance grant for the two parcels consisting of approximately 4.15 acres in the amount of $33,280.00 plus closing costs in the HWY111/I-10 area.
The parcels in this Conservation Area have been previously identified and approved by the board, STO and DOF as outlined in CVMC’s current project list. These parcels have also been appraised using USPAP standards and the appraisal is in the process of being reviewed and approved by and independent qualified appraiser.
Chair Crites asked if there was any further discussion on the item. Since there was none he asked for a motion to adopt resolution 2012-07. A motion was made and seconded (Taylor/Trover) to adopt the motion. The motion passed by a unanimous roll call vote of 15 Board members.
4.5 Resolution 2012-08 approving the acceptance of the Conservation Easement donated by the City of Palm Desert to the Coachella Valley Mountains Conservancy located in the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument and authorizing the Executive Director to negotiate the terms and costs of Conservation Easement.
Kevin McKernan explained that the City of Palm Desert has approached CVMC about the possibility of holding a Conservation Easement over several (potentially up to 56) parcels totaling approximately 208 acres in the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument. The City acquired these parcels in various phases over the last several years with the intention of setting them aside as open space and for non-motorized recreational opportunities, open space and habitat protection. There are several established trails that cross the subject parcels which are managed cooperatively with the BLM Monument staff. These parcels also provide the relatively undeveloped backdrop for the south Palm Desert area community as well as the view shed for portions of the Scenic Highway 74. Some of the parcels also abut the Department of Fish and Game Magnesia Spring Ecological Reserve and the ever-popular Bump and Grind trail, suggesting that wildlife habitat may also be an important value of these lands.
By placing these lands under a Conservation Easement held by CVMC, the City would be assured of future permanent protection enforced by the terms of the easement and not subject to subsequent zoning, ordinance or policy shifts. The Conservation Easement, in some cases, will either already be called for in the existing calculations of the Coachella Valley Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan, or be counted as additionally Conserved lands toward the acreage goals of the Plan.
Staff proposes to work with the City on identifying which parcels of the 56 originally identified are appropriate to place under a Conservation Easement for permanent protection and which ones might make more sense to transfer to other conservation entities such as CVCC. A condition of the Conservation Easement is that the City in consultation with Conservancy shall; comprehensively review the boundaries of the Conservation Easement and related easement areas, and prepare a baseline report on the condition of the Conservation Easement and related easement lands to determine if there are any areas that are not appropriate for inclusion in the Conservation Easement. We also propose to work on drafting a mutually acceptable Conservation Easement and establish the appropriate level of funding to be dedicated by the City in order to adequately monitor and protect these lands in perpetuity.
John Donnelly asked if the City would maintain ownership and the Conservancy would have the Conservation Easement only.
Kevin McKernan answered, that’s correct.
John Donnelly noted that there is really no huge requirements for the Conservancy.
Kevin McKernan answered, that’s correct, just annual monitoring and we will be requesting some type of fund to be deposited into the Conservancy Fund to allow us to monitor that regularly. The most activity is on existing trails and Jim Foote the BLM Monument Manager may be able to speak to that.
Jim Foote noted that there are a few concerns that came up when he was reading the staff report, not the least of which is the potential effects this will have on the existing contract BLM has with the City of Palm Desert on law enforcement activities on these trails. There are some specifics here that need to be worked out and as we work through this easement with the City and I encourage that the Conservancy to engage BLM in those conversations so BLM can have a say in the decisions.
Kevin McKernan answered that will be noted.
Chair Crites asked if there was any further discussion on the item. Since there was none he asked for a motion to authorize the Executive Director to enter into negotiations with the City of Palm Desert and to adopt resolution 2012-08. A motion was made and seconded (Muth/Benoit) to adopt the motion. The motion passed by a unanimous roll call vote of 15 Board members present.
5.0 Closed Session – No matters scheduled
Pursuant to Government Code sections 11126 (a)(1), 11126 (e)(1) and 11126.3(a) the Board may hold a closed session to discuss and take possible action on personnel matters and or receive advice of counsel on pending or potential litigation. In addition, pursuant to Government Code section 11126 (c) 7 (A) the Board may meet in closed session with its negotiator prior to the purchase or sale of real property by or for the state body to give instructions to its negotiator regarding the price and terms of payment for the purchase or sale. Confidential memoranda related to these issues may be considered during such closed session discussions.
6.1 Written Reports. Chair Crites asked if there were any discussion. Kevin McKernan provided the Board an update on acquisitions, acquisition priorities, contractors the Conservancy used this year and remaining bond funds.
6.2 Board Member comments and reports from Conservancy member agencies. Chair Crites asked if there were any discussion. There was none.
7.0 Adjourn to the July 9, 2012 meeting. The meeting was adjourned without objection at 4:16 p.m.