County Giving Them Short Shrift On Resort Approval, Wonder Valley Residents Say

Wonder Valley residents’ previous misgivings that a resort facility proposed for development in their community would severely compromise the desert tranquility they now enjoy has been heightened by the county planning division’s preparation of documents to allow the project to proceed through the approval process without being subject to a full-fledged environmental impact report.
Concern is growing among Wonder Valley locals that David Mlynarski, a politically well-connected development professional who is working on behalf of the project proponents, has prevailed upon county officials to keep them from applying the more exacting land use standards that those living in the desert community believe are proper for any significant construction that is to take place in their midst.
Alan Greenberg and Jason Landver have retained Mlynarski and his company, Transtech Engineers, Inc., to chaperone the conversion of the 4,407-square foot former Southern California Edison facility most commonly known by locals as “the pink building” and a portion of the 134.6 acres around it into year-round resort through the county land use division’s approval process.Dubbed the Wonder Valley Inn, the project is to entail a 106-room hotel, to include an all-night restaurant, spa/wellness center, conference hall and event center to be located at 78201 Amboy Road, near the southwest corner of Gammel Road and Amboy Road in the sparsely populated desert community roughly 10 miles east of Twentynine Palms. The resort would include a 6,000-square foot swimming pool, hot tubs, outdoor showers, a 180,000-gallon water tank and a 205-space parking lot.
Mlynarski, a member of the American Planning Association, the Baldy View Chapter of the Building Industry Association, of which he is currently an executive committee member, the Inland Empire Economic Recovery Corporation, of which he is also the chief financial officer, and the National Association of Home Builders, ran as a pro-development candidate for city council in San Bernardino’s Seventh Ward two years ago. He possesses solid credentials relating to guiding developmental interests in achieving entitlements to build based upon his professional experience. He was an assistant planner with the City of Fontana and then an associate planner and zoning administrator with the City of Palmdale. He left the public sector and parlayed his experience behind the planning counter to become the vice president of land development with Moning Development in Fullerton, later becoming vice president of market development with Redlands-based Sierra Engineering. He worked with two civil engineering and land surveying companies before purchasing one of them and converting it to Transtech Engineers, Inc. He is guiding Greenberg and Landver in their application with the San Bernardino County Land Use Services Department to build what Greenberg and Landver have dubbed the Wonder Valley Inn.
The initial phases of the development would extend to no more than 25 acres, including the 4,407-square foot old pink building, which is to be converted into the hotel’s lobby, restaurant and kitchen, the stoves and ovens for which will run on propane. Two existing wells will be tapped to provide water. The proponents intend to use a septic leech field system for wastewater. Greenberg and Landver will rely on the local utility provider for electricity.
One off-site improvement that Greenberg and Ladver will be required to make is the widening a relatively modest 29-foot span of Amboy Road from the centerline of the site, creating a 40-foot-wide section along the south side of Amboy Road and converting a dirt road on the west side of the property into a paved emergency access route.
The Wonder Valley Inn will have roughly 20 full-time employees and stop-gap part-time employees during those seasons when the resort experiences its highest level of use, the proponents have told the county.
Greenberg and Landver in November 2021 applied for a conditional use permit, including a rezoning request for 21.22 of the acres on the site which are currently zoned for low density housing under the county’s RL-5 zoning designation to CS, or commercial service use. The current RL-5 designation allows single family homes on lots no smaller than five acres. Greenberg and Landver either own outright or have tied up approximately 135 acres at the Amboy/Gammel corner. The 3.18 acres closest to the two roads is already zoned for commercial service use.
On January 13, 2023, the San Bernardino County Department of Land Use Services released its initial study of the project, indicating it would accept a negative mitigation declaration in carrying out the environmental certification of the project during its approval process.
Under the California Environmental Quality Act, most development projects are subjected to an environmental certification process. Some types of environmental certification are more intensive than others, ranging from an environmental impact report to an environmental impact study to an environmental assessment to an environmental examination to a mitigated negative declaration to a negative declaration.
An environmental impact report, the most involved type of environmental analysis and certification there is, consists of an involved study of the project site, the project proposal, the potential and actual impacts the project will have on the site and surrounding area in terms of all conceivable issues, including land use, water use, air quality, potential contamination, noise, traffic, and biological and cultural resources. An environmental impact report specifies in detail what measures can, will and must be carried out to offset those impacts. A mitigated negative declaration falls near the other end of the scale, and exists as a far less exacting size-up of the impacts of a project, by which the panel entrusted with the city’s ultimate land use authority, as in the case of Wonder Valley either the county planning commission or the board of supervisors, issues a declaration that all adverse environmental impacts from the project will be mitigated, or offset, by the conditions of approval of the project imposed upon the developer.
Those who believe that the Wonder Valley Inn will prove incompatible with the rustic atmosphere of the community as it currently exists strongly suspect allowing the project to be subject to anything less than an across-the-board environmental impact report will allow Greenberg and Landver to cut corners and avoid having to pay for or otherwise provide mitigation measures that will offset the impacts of drawing hundreds of outsiders into the community every week.
County Land Use Services’ contention that there will be no untoward environmental impacts from the project that are not to be offset by the relatively slim set of conditions to be imposed on the project’s ownership is a bit much for many of Wonder Valley’s residents, who were skeptical about the project from the time they first heard about Greenberg and Landver applying for a conditional use permit for the project in late 2021. A handful of those residents banded together to create the website
The project’s coalescing opposition rejects San Bernardino County Land Use Services staff’s preliminary conclusion that public vistas, nighttime sky and star visibility and air quality will undergo no significant impact from the project.
Some suspect that county staff has merely substituted Mlynarski’s advocacy in favor of the project for the more thorough and independent review that a professional public planning agency is responsible for providing.
The Stop Wonder Inn coalition is holding a meeting at 1 p.m. January 28 at the Wonder Valley Community Center. They intend to coordinate the citizenry’s response in exercising the right to provide input and express opposition to the project.
The San Bernardino County Department of Land Services has set a deadline of February 22 for the public’s submission of comments on the project to be incorporated into the mitigated negative declaration.
Residents will have until that date to make a case to county officials that a mitigated negative declaration is not sufficient and that what is called for is a full-blown environmental impact report. Submissions to the county land use services division can be made via email to or by U.S. Post to Azhar Khan at 385 N. Arrowhead Ave., 1st Floor San Bernardino, CA 92415.

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