Mountain City Would Span Lake Gregory, Crestline, Enchantment & Moon Valleys

The long talked-about concept of creating in the San Bernardino Mountains what would be San Bernardino County’s 25th city is progressing somewhat closer to reality, though the true sentiment of the entirety of communities targeted for such an annexation is not fully known.
Based on a somewhat-less-than-scientific poll of the business community in the area, there appears to be support for cityhood. Whether that carries over to the citizenry within what would become an alpine municipality is up in the air.
The current effort to unite some of the mountain communities into a city is somewhat less energetic and inclusive than previous proposals in the same neck of the woods. A move to incorporate Lake Arrowhead, which is the most economically vital of the area’s towns, was undertaken more than once. Resident support was tepid on those occasions at best, and none reached fruition.
A more energetic concept materialized a half dozen years ago. At some point after that, the San Bernardino County Local Agency Formation Commission commissioned Santa Ana-based Rosenow Spevacek Group Inc. to weigh in on the feasibility of unifying the unincorporated communities of Lake Arrowhead, Crestline, Running Springs, Arrowbear, Green Valley Lake, Skyforest, Rim Forest, Twin Peaks, Blue Jay and Cedar Glen into a single 40-square mile city with roughly 32,000 residents.
At that time there was a social issue driving the proposal. The proliferation of sober-living homes and drug-rehabilitation centers in the communities, resulting in tension within the neighborhoods where those facilities are located, had some residents casting about for a fix. Many area residents expressed the belief at the time that the board of supervisors, none of whose members live in the San Bernardino Mountains, had any sensitivity to the issue. Moreover, they said, the county’s permitting and regulation of the drug rehab facilities had proven lax. It was the belief of some that a newly created city would take command of land use policy and zoning to either prohibit or significantly limit such businesses and residential facilities in the area. The sober-living facility issue is not roiling as it once was in that area, but does remain a concern.
Ultimately, the Rosenow Spevacek analysis, which only peripherally touched on land use policies, came to a somewhat ambiguous conclusion with regard to the practical economic viability of the specified communities coalescing into a single unit. The revenue to be generated tax-wise and assessment-wise from within the proposed boundaries would sustain the cost of providing standard municipal services, according to Rosenow Spevacek, though those coffers would not exactly be flush with cash.
In late 2017, an alternate and less ambitious cityhood drive began, an independent movement under the logo of Incorporate Lake Gregory. A volunteer committee, consisting of Bill Mellinger, the pastor of Crestline First Baptist Church; Steve Garcia, the camp director at Thousand Pines Christian Camp; Michael Johnstone, the owner and vice president of Goodwin and Son’s Market; John Short, an attorney based in the area and affiliated with the Crestline/Lake Gregory Chamber of Commerce; and Penny Shubnell, a local senior citizens advocate, formed in November 2017 as a California non-profit organization with the sole purpose of helping with the incorporation of the Lake Gregory area. Johnstone was previously active as a member of Incorporate Lake Arrowhead.
Under consideration for inclusion in the new city are Crestline, Crest Forest, Valley of Enchantment, Cedarpines Park, San Moritz, and Valley of the Moon. The new city would exclude Lake Arrowhead, Blue Jay, Cedar Glen and ArrowBear.
According to Steve Garcia, one of the incorporation proponents, “The map was proposed by the San Bernardino County Local Agency Formation Commission, and the boundaries determined by influence of the already existing services of both fire and sanitation districts.”
The incorporation effort that began in 2014 extending to Lake Arrowhead, Crestline, Running Springs, Cedarpines Park, Arrowbear, Green Valley Lake, Skyforest, Rim Forest, Twin Peaks, Blue Jay and Cedar Glen which was later abandoned would have led to the creation of a city with a population of roughly 32,000, making it larger than Needles, Big Bear, Grand Terrace, Yucca Valley, Loma Linda, Barstow and Twentynine Palms, such that it would be the seventeenth largest and eighth smallest of what would then be the county’s 25 cities. The more modest designs of Incorporate Lake Gregory, limited as it is to Crestline, Crest Forest, Twin Peaks, Valley of Enchantment, Cedarpines Park, San Moritz, and Valley of the Moon would shrink the proposed new city limits to less than 20 square miles and involve a total population somewhere in the neighborhood of 11,300, per the county’s records, of which roughly 6,500 are registered voters. That would make it the city’s fourth smallest city.
The area in question is on the western side of the San Bernardino Mountains, within the county’s Second Supervisorial District. After the 2010 Census, a portion of what had been the Third Supervisorial District, which previously contained the lion’s share of the San Bernardino Mountains, was moved into the Second District. The San Bernardino Mountains currently boast a single incorporated city, Big Bear, which lies on the eastern side of the mountains in the Third District. Big Bear, with a population of 5,124 is the county’s second smallest city population-wise.
A core of mountain residents seem to believe cityhood is the way to go. They are pushing the concept, and have been checking all of the boxes required to push the process along.
Incorporate Lake Gregory recently conducted an email survey of local Lake Gregory businesses owners. A tally of the responses shows 57.14 percent of participants indicated they were favorably disposed toward the incorporation of the Crestline and Lake Gregory communities. At the same time, 18.37 percent of the responding business owners were opposed to incorporation. Another 24.5 percent were noncommittal, indicating they needed more information to take a position. The polling was non-scientific in that it elicited responses from just over 19 percent of those queried, with 47 responses from a total of 242 emails sent out. The sentiment of the community as a whole is less than clear at present.
Incorporate Lake Gregory has retained the services of Kathleen Rollings-McDonald, who was formerly the executive director of the San Bernardino County Local Agency Formation Commission, to assist in preparing the application for incorporation, including a finalized financial feasibility study for the issue.
That application, which is required to have signatures obtained from 25 percent of the registered voters within the confines of the area to be incorporated signifying that they want the effort to progress to the next step, will call upon the San Bernardino County Local Agency Formation Commission to carry out its own financial feasibility study as to whether the area would be able to sustain itself in terms of defraying the costs of basic services under the auspices of its own governmental entity independent of the county. Those signatures must be obtained within a six-month period. Once underway, the study would require as long as eight months to complete. Thus, whether Incorporate Lake Gregory can meet all of the timelines to qualify a cityhood formation question on the November 2020 ballot is touch and go at this point. An application for cityhood would cost $70,000.
Incorporate Lake Gregory will present a report relating to the preliminary feasibility study on Saturday March 30 at 1 p.m. at the Lake Gregory Community Church, located at 460 Pine Drive in Crestline. A second presentation will be made on Wednesday April 3 at 7 p.m.
-Mark Gutglueck

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