Approved Minutes, July 13, 2015
COACHELLA VALLEY MOUNTAINS CONSERVANCY
Approved Minutes – July 13, 2015, 3:00 PM
73-710 Fred Waring Drive,
Conference Room 115 Palm Desert, CA 92260
Tele-conference location: State of California, Resources Agency
1416 Ninth St., Suite 1311 Sacramento, CA 95814
Richard Balocco, City of Indian Wells
Buford Crites, State Assembly Appointee (Chairman) Jim Foote, Bureau of Land Management
Kristy Franklin, City of La Quinta
Shelley Kaplan, City of Cathedral City
Eddy Konno, California Department of Fish and Wildlife Joe McKee, City of Desert Hot Springs
Chris Mills, City of Palm Springs
Allan Muth, University of California
Larry Olinger, Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians Eraina Ortega, California State Department of Finance Ellen L. Trover, Senate Rules Committee Appointee Susan Marie Weber, City of Palm Desert
Ted Weill, City of Rancho Mirage (Vice-Chairman)
John J. Benoit, Riverside County
Arturo Delgado, U.S. Forest Service
Kathy Dice, California State Parks
John Donnelly, Wildlife Conservation Board Patrick Kemp, Natural Resources Agency Karin Messaros, National Park Service Joan Taylor, Governor’s Appointee
Jim Karpiak, Executive Director
Kerrie Godfrey, Associate Director/AGPA
Daniel Trevino, Intern, City of Rancho Mirage
1.0 Call to Order & Introductions
Chairman Crites declared a quorum with 14 voting members present at 3:00 p.m. He noted that new attendees were present and asked Executive Director, Jim Karpiak, to introduce them to the Board. Jim introduced Richard Balocco, City of Indian Wells.
2.0 Approval of Minutes of May 14, 2015 Meeting
Chairman Crites asked if there were any comments, additions or corrections to the May 2015 minutes. There being none, the minutes were approved as distributed. Chris Mills and Richard Balocco abstained.
3.0 Public Comments on Items Not on the Agenda There were no public comments or questions.
4.0 Closed Session
No matters were scheduled.
5.0 Action Items – Public Hearing
Chairman Crites noted that unless there were objections, items 5.1, 5.2 and 5.4 would be heard first as one hearing item and item 5.3 would be heard last.
5.1 Adoption of Resolution 2015-03 approving a local assistance grant to the Friends of the Desert Mountains for acquisition of approximately 25.00 acres in the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains Conservation Area.
Executive Director, Jim Karpiak, introduced this item as a grant to the Friends of the Desert Mountains (FODM) for the purchase of 25 acres in the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains Conservation Area. He pointed out the two parcels on the map provided in the agenda packet and noted that the parcels are adjacent to Bureau of Land Management (BLM) parcels or Coachella Valley Water District (CVWD) parcels, and near several other properties funded by CVMC. The price for this parcel is $80,000 plus approved costs.
5.2 Adoption of Resolution 2015-04 approving a local assistance grant to the Friends of the Desert Mountains for acquisition of approximately 20.00 acres in the Desert Tortoise and Linkage Conservation Area.
Jim noted that this parcel is south of the I-10, within Desert Tortoise habitat and a critical corridor between Joshua Tree National Park and the Wilderness Area. Although the parcel is remote, it is important habitat and is relatively inexpensive at $8000 plus approved costs.
5.4 Adoption of Resolution 2015-06 approving a local assistance grant to the Friends of the Desert Mountains for acquisition of approximately 41.58 acres in the Dos Palmas Conservation Area.
Jim noted that this parcel is near the Riverside-San Bernardino county line, east of Hwy 111, along Hwy 86 and south of the Dos Palmas Preserve. It is near BLM parcels as well as other FODM parcels, and serves as part of the watershed for the Salton Sea and thus is home to several riparian species. The area is still remote and undeveloped and presents a great opportunity to gradually conserve parcels at low prices. This price for this parcel is $17,000, plus approved costs.
Jim recommended approval of items 5.1, 5.2 and 5.4. He also noted that current law requires that the minutes reflect that two board members (Buford Crites and Joan Taylor) also serve on the FODM board; however, state law specifically provides that a non-paid board membership for a non-profit organization like FODM is not a conflict of interest, and therefore recusal is not required.
Chairman Crites called for a motion. Kristy Franklin asked whether the board should address clean-up that needs to be done. Jim replied that the staff inspects the parcels before the grants are funded just before escrow to ensure clean-up has been completed at the seller’s expense.
Chairman Crites announced there was a motion and a second (Mills/Kaplan) to approve Resolutions 2015-03, 2015-04 and 2015-06 and called for the roll call of votes. The motion approving the resolutions passed unanimously.
5.3 Adoption of Resolution 2015-05 consenting to and approving the sale by the Friends of the Desert Mountains of up to 165.25 acres in the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument to the Bureau of Land Management, BLM No. CACA-055381, and authorizing the termination and release of recorded restrictions in favor of the Conservancy on the parcels relating to its grant assistance.
Jim described the land that is the subject of this item: two parcels totaling 8.88 acres are located along Snowcreek Road in the Snowcreek Conservation area; one parcel consisting of 156 acres is in the Santa Rosa San Jacinto Mountains Conservations Area, west of Hwy 74 in southern Palm Desert. The first two parcels made up the Kujawa property purchased in 2011 for $63,000 using Prop 84 funds from CVMC. The third parcel was the Amlanco property purchased in 2009 for $100,000 using Prop 84 from CVMC.
Jim explained that CVMC has permitted transfer of lands to government agencies six times in the past; in January 2015, the board gave conditional approval for what would be the seventh, sale of the Stearns Bank parcels to BLM. This type of transfer has always been part of the FODM’s business plan: FODM uses its status as a non-profit to quickly buy property, then negotiates with a large federal or state agency to take the land over for permanent management where possible.
Jim pointed out several benefits to a federal agency managing the land: management of multiple adjacent parcels by a single larger agency is more efficient, entities like BLM have more resources including their own law enforcement, the transfer releases FODM from the management obligations and risks so it can purchase more land, and any funds received for the property are paid to CVMC and can be used to purchase and conserve more land.
BLM will not take land encumbered by recorded restrictions, which means that the NUGA (Notice of Unrecorded Grant Restrictions) recorded in favor of CVMC to protect land acquired with CVMC grants must be released. These parcels are within the Joshua Tree National Monument which provides statutory protection for land owned by the Federal Government and BLM has adopted land-use policies that do not allow land development. Any changes of the land use policies for this area will meet with a long public process and environmental review. In the past, CVMC has deemed land within the Monument area to be sufficiently protected by the Monument legislation and BLM land use policy.
Due to the drop in land value in 2009, we would be receiving $60,000 compared to the $170,000 purchase price. Sometimes land that CVMC grants have funded is donated to BLM, and CVMC receives no funds in return. Jim pointed out that while the land does have a fair market value; it is in reality a liability to the owner, who must manage the property as open space over the long term with no chance that it will produce income. He also pointed out there is little chance the prices will go up in the future due to the land’s status as part of the National Monument.
Jim stated that staff recommends approval of the Resolution based on the long term business plan of the FODM and CVMC. Chairman Crites opened the floor to questions from the board.
Richard Balocco questioned the drop in land value and Jim clarified that the first parcels were purchased at the top of the land value ‘bubble’ a few years ago. Conservation land value has not increased like residential land value has.
Susan Marie Weber asked if there were any trails that would be affected by the transfer. Jim said no and added that the parcel near Hwy 74 is remote and Snowcreek Road goes through the other parcel reducing the possibility of off- road driving.
Eraina Ortega voiced her concern over the drop in price and other valuations in the future. She stated she was not going to support this Resolution.
Discussion ensued about the price being based on the BLM appraisal and how it was determined.
Joe McKee asked whether we should get our own appraisal. Jim stated that could be done even though we have not done so in the past. The cost would be
approximately $7500. Chairman Crites pointed out the board could also vote not to sell to the BLM.
Susan Marie Weber stated she had concerns about the appraisal from the beginning and would like to see another appraisal. Kerrie suggested using a third party reviewer instead of a full-blown appraisal. Jim pointed out that reviewer would not re-appraise the land, rather the reviewer would just review the BLM appraisal and report whether the appraisal was written based on applicable professional standards.
Discussion ensued concerning how the BLM appraisal was done and what will happen if the Resolution is not passed. Jim pointed out that even if the Board pays for another appraisal, BLM is not obligated to consider or accept it. Chairman Crites simplified the discussion: CVMC does not own the land. We paid for a 501(3)(c) to buy it. That 501(3)(c) wants to sell it to BLM and relieve itself of the management obligation. The issue is we spent $170,000 for the two parcels and would receive only $60,000 as a result of the transfer.
Jim pointed out that the FODM has a large inventory of property acquired over the past few years, all of which requires maintenance and monitoring. If FODM cannot reduce its property inventory, it may not be willing to acquire more land in the future. This proposal is a way to promote additional conservation over the long term.
Eddy Konno pointed out that for FODM to hold the land, no money is returned to CVMC. If the sale goes through at least some money is returned to use for additional conservation.
Ellen Trover asked Jim and Kerrie how comfortable they are with this transaction. Jim stated they had reviewed the appraisal and thought it was adequate for these parcels since there is not a lot of controversy about prices of these remote areas. BLM is not flexible about appraisals and contesting it would be a long and likely fruitless process. Ellen further stated that at least the land is being kept in for conservation and not sold to a private party for development.
Kerrie stated that CVMC considers BLM as a partner and it makes sense that if BLM has land all around a particular parcel that they manage it. She also pointed out that CVCC has donated parcels to BLM in the past because it made sense for them to manage the property. Ellen pointed out management can be a big issue and cost.
Al Muth pointed out that we have worked with FODM many times in the past. They are an organization that can get things done in reasonable amount of time. They have a new executive director and their board wants to go in other directions. If we lose their cooperation, we are going to have a difficult time
acquiring land for conservation purposes. We have had no reason to question appraisals in past, so he is reluctant not to vote for resolution as proposed.
Eraina voiced she still has concerns about possible future issues with buying high and selling low on any property in conjunction with bond money.
After more discussion, Jim pointed out that CVMC is not condoning and selling of conservation land for other uses. The land bought with CVMC funds in 2009 and 2011 will stay in conservation after this sale, which will result in not only more efficient management but $60,000 to purchase additional conservation property.
Ellen suggested that when we are considering a transfer of property and receiving less than 90% of the original purchase price, a summary of the appraisal be presented to the board before voting; she asked whether a motion to that effect was necessary. Jim thought that a motion would not be necessary; staff will include the appraisal summary in future staff reports, and will make the full appraisal available for review upon request.
Chairman Crites announced there was a motion to adopt Resolution 2015-05 and a second (Mills/Weber) and called for the roll call vote. Motion passed with 10 ‘Yes’, 3 ‘No’ and 1 ‘Abstention’.
6.1 Written Reports from Staff.
Jim reported that a Notice of Funding Availability or NOFA will be issued on Wednesday (July 15th) for Prop 1 funds. Based on the board’s preferences expressed when it considered the Prop 1 Guidelines, we kept the application announcement and process very short and to the point. Some other state grant programs use NOFAs of 80 pages or more; so as not to overwhelm grantees that do not have experience with state programs; we developed a two-step application process that begins with an in-person consultation with the staff. We will see how the process works in this first funding round, and we can consider changing it when the next NOFA is issued next spring. October 15th is the last day to request a consultation and formal written application deadline is November 14th.
6.2 Executive Director Report.
Jim Karpiak provided updates on the following:
6.2.1 Prop 1 Grant Program Staffing and Schedule – Recruitment for the Prop 1 staff person is closing on Thursday, July 16th. We are permitted to consider only applicants from a Civil Service Department of Parks and Recreation hiring list or current state employees. We hope to find someone who can start by October 1st.
If we cannot find an appropriate person, we will have to repost the position and use another state agency’s hiring list, which would take significantly more time.
6.2.2 Shumway Ranch Acquisition – Unfortunately, California State University — San Bernardino has pulled out due to concerns about taking title of property with historic structures on it. We are talking to a couple of other universities who may want to partner with FODM on the project, and we are also negotiating with the seller (the Living Desert) to try to meet some of the conditions that FODM would have if it were to take title to the entire site and the buildings, including having the Living Desert remove the non- historic structures before closing and contribute to an on-going endowment for the preservation and maintenance.
6.2.3 Northern Coachella Valley Trails Project – Jim advised that the preparation of the environmental review for the project is almost done. He indicated a map showing the Golf Center Parkway trail. Over the past few weeks, with the help of FODM, CVMC identified an alternate route for one part of the trail to avoid private property where the seller would not negotiate to sell. We hope to begin building the trails in the winter.
6.2.4 AB1089 Legislation – The Legislation passed the Assembly unanimously last month and it is now on the Senate’s agenda, where it is expected to pass. Staff has already submitted an agency bill analysis to the Governor’s Office for review and to date have not had any questions from the administration. If the Governor signs the bill, in January Coachella and Indio will return to the board.
6.3 Board Member comments and reports from Conservancy member agencies.
Ted Weill introduced Daniel Trevino, a journalism intern at the City of Rancho Mirage this summer.
Kristy Franklin asked whether staff was planning to put together another board bus tour of CVMC projects in the future. Jim replied that we could do that if there is interest on the board, and seeing that there is, he would put a discussion of a tour on a future agenda.
Joe McKee reported that Desert Hot Springs is looking at alternatives to connect the CV Link with a bicycle path getting into the Big Morongo Canyon area and the southern end of Joshua Tree Monument. There is a little used road with good access in all directions. They are working with CVAG, Desert Health Care, and others to have the road de-commissioned and make it limited-access. Only limited work would be required to re-paint some improvements and add shade structures. This would provide an access point to many federal and state lands and prove positive for spas and hotels and tourism.
Chairman Crites requested that staff include available Section 6 funds on the written reports of remaining bond funds for each meeting.
Chairman Crites also welcomed the new board member, Mr. Balocco from the City of Indian Wells.
7.0 Adjourn to the September 14, 2015 meeting.
The meeting was adjourned without objection at 3:59 p.m.