Landver & Greenberg Appeal County Planning Commission’s Ruling On Wonder Inn Project

Jason Landver and Alan Greenburg on April 3 filed an appeal with the board of supervisors of the San Bernardino County Planning Commission’s March 23 rejection of their proposal to establish a resort hotel in the desert community of Wonder Valley.
The planning commission devoted four hours 37 minutes and 45-seconds to considering the San Bernardino County Land Use Services staff’s recommendation and the presentation of the project made by Landver and a team of development consultants along with the input of 47 residents of the area or their advocates who inveighed against the project.
Landver and Greenberg expressed their intent to construct a 106-room hotel, to include an all-night restaurant, spa/wellness center, conference hall and event center, a 6,000-square foot swimming pool, hot tubs, outdoor showers, a 180,000-gallon water tank and a 205-space parking lot on 24.4 acres situated on 223 acres they have acquired centered on a point identified as located at 78201 Amboy Road, not too distant from the southwest corner of Amboy Road and Gammel Road.The county’s land use services division’s personnel assigned to the project, consisting of Senior Planner Azhar Khan and Supervising Planner Chris Warrick, were favorably disposed toward the proposal, and they recommended that the planning commission recommend approval of the undertaking to the board of supervisors. The board of supervisors must sign off on the project because, of the 24.4 acres that are to be developed, only 3.18 acres are currently zoned for service commercial use, which is consistent with a resort. The remaining 21.22 acres are zoned for residential development, with a requirement that each dwelling unit be located on a five-acre lot. Only the board of supervisors has the authority to grant the required zone change, conditional use permit and policy land use amendment Landver and Greenberg are seeking.
By the tenor of some of the comments of the planning commissioners present at the meeting – Kareem Gongora, Michael Stoffel, Matthew Slowik and Jonathan Weldy – they seemed favorably disposed toward the resort concept.
Things went amiss, however, when Landver made a presumptive assertion suggesting that he and Greenberg had an absolute “right” to develop the project as they proposed it and that the commission, board of supervisors and county had no discretion with regard to the project approval or terms of approval. Things worsened for the proponents when it was revealed that the team of development specialists Landver and Greenberg hired to usher the project past the planning staff and planning commission, which included the politically well-connected David Mlynarski and his assistant, Julie Gilbert, made misrepresentations about the presence of endangered desert tortoises on the subject property and those development consultants then made a personal attack on the biologist who found evidence of those tortoises’ presence, questioning his ethics, apparently because they felt that by withholding payment to him for that study, they could prevent him from publishing his findings.
The assertion by Mlynarski and Gilbert that the biologist had acted unethically by refusing to keep his survey results under wraps and providing a copy of the study he completed to entities that had not paid for it, coupled with a threat by Gilbert to blackball the biologist, Ed LaRue, with the development industry appeared to have sorely offended the commission members, who took the effort to bury the evidence of the endangered tortoises being present on the property as an affront and an attack on the integrity of the county’s land use approval process.
Exposed was an apparent code of obfuscation and deception at play within the San Bernardino County development industry that officials felt could not be countenanced if it were publicly revealed, as had been the case with the Wonder Inn project presentation.
Ultimately, Weldy, Slowik Stoffel and Gongora declined to make any recommendation to the board of supervisors, which was tantamount to a project denial.
Landver and Greenberg appealed the passive denial to the board of supervisors.
“It seems that a lot of people are against progress and growth at all costs,” Landver said.
-Mark Gutglueck

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