Grant Deeding Of Easement To Private Citizen Threatens Nearby Residents’ Access To Their Property

Multiple questions attend the grant deeding of a strip of land in Redlands dedicated 68 years ago as a road, ingress, egress,  road support, culvert and drainage easement to a private property owner.
Foremost among those questions is whether the recipient of the land, Don Paulson, will be able to charge nearby property owners a hefty fee to utilize the property in question to gain access to their properties.
The conveyance of the property, which some Redlands residents have characterized as a gift of public land for private gain, appears to extinguish the easement in direct contravention to statutes relating to public land use, such that the eradication of the easement landlocks several parcels. Neighbors first became aware that something was amiss on a Sunday afternoon in March 2019, when Paulson started cutting down trees on the easement which runs along a major arterial located in the Eastern Redlands hills.
When Paulson was questioned about his actions, he claimed that he owned the easement and had “made a deal with the city.”
Record requests revealed that the publicly dedicated road, road support, easement, culverts and drainage had been  deeded to Paulson by a third party. The chain of title on the property, however, points up some contradictions to indicate that the authority to convey the property did not rest with the entity that grant deeded it to Paulson.
The grantor was the University of Redlands, according to a 2016 recorded grant deed with notarized signatures of University President Ralph Kuncl, Vice President of Finance Cory Nemuro and Board of Trustee Secretary Stanley Weisser.
In communication obtained by the Sentinel dated March 28, 2019, Redlands professional engineer Don Young confirmed that the property was never vacated by the City of Redlands, which under State law would have been required to hold a public hearing so city council approval for the grant deeding could take place.
Young claimed that in 2016 the University of Redlands filed a “quit claim” deeding the strip of land to Don Paulson. However, the document, 20160547075, recorded at the San Bernardino County Recorder’s Office on 12/14/2016 clearly states “grant deed.”
Young further remarked that “No transaction or deal [was] made” and Paulson is entitled “to develop the property” and to engage in “grading of the property.” Mr. Young maintained  that the University of Redlands was the “underlying fee owner.” However, city parcel documents prior to 2016 and recorders records clearly show this area was held for public use by the City of Redlands and the University of Redlands had no involvement and was not paying fees.
According to tract map documents on file at the San Bernardino County Recorder’s office, the sliver of land in question running along Alta Vista Drive  was dedicated for public use in 1948 as part of the Hilltop Estates Tract 3311.
Paulson owns property in the neighboring subdivision of Dunlap Ranch, but not in Hilltop Estates. The land for the Hilltop Estates Tract 3311 subdivision was at one time owned by the University of Redlands, but recorded documents reveal that the University of Redlands gave clear title to subdivision land owners and dedicated this area for public use on March 22, 1948. There is no record of fees or ownership of this strip of land by the University of Redlands after 1948.
In 1988 and 1989, the University of Redlands sent documents to all residents in the Hilltop Estates Tract 3311 stating that the University held “no economic interest” in tract 3311. These documents were signed by University of Redlands treasurer Julie K. Phelps. Longtime resident and Hilltop Estates Committee head and retired Air Forces Colonel Varnum Fletcher stated he could not imagine why the University of Redlands officials would think they owned the drainage and road easement, especially after it was confirmed that in 1988/1989 the university had no economic interest in Hilltop Estates.
When questioned over the grant deed to Don Paulson, multiple University of Redlands officials last month claimed that it was a “private transaction” and said they weren’t “victims” and they knew what they were doing. Earlier in May, the Sentinel ran an article pointing out the recent gift of tuition discounts the University of Redlands had bestowed on City of Redlands employees and families.

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