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Bell Bluff project near Alpine creeps into Cleveland Forest

Needs bridge across Sweetwater River; egress blocked by Powerlink

Part of the proposed 600-acre Rancho Palo Verde subdivision next to Palo Verde Lake.
Part of the proposed 600-acre Rancho Palo Verde subdivision next to Palo Verde Lake.

A rural housing project that has been in limbo for decades is worrying Alpine neighbors who found out it may be revived.

The 152-home zombie, known as the Bell Bluff extension, was to be the second phase of the nearly 600-acre Rancho Palo Verde subdivision, until it stalled over lack of water supply, fire risk, and biological impacts.

Those challenges have only intensified since the 1979 environmental impact report was approved. And the county's climate and growth goals have shifted away from sprawl to a village approach. While the proposed development is located in the Alpine Community Planning Area, it falls well outside the village center.

Nay-sayers say they have obtained public records that show the little-known project is moving forward in the planning department.

According to the Cleveland National Forest Foundation, the extension could have disastrous consequences to the Cleveland National Forest, as it would require building a bridge across the Sweetwater River, opening the door to development on the untouched side of the river.

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Other critics include neighbors of Bell Bluff (Bell Bluff is a 3409' peak seven miles east of Alpine) and the Potrero Planning Group. Opponents want the county, in keeping with their goal of reducing sprawl and a November 2022 resolution to promote biodiversity, to cause the property to revert to acreage and cancel the subdivision.

While nay-sayers say they have obtained public records that show the little-known project is moving forward in the planning department, the hurdles it faces today seem insurmountable.

A temporary lien contract that was extended by the county over the years expired on June 14, 2012. No further extensions were approved.

While the development is located in the Alpine Community Planning Area, it falls outside the village center.

The property, now held by out-of-town investors, transferred to Alpine Rancho Palo Verde Planning LLC in 2017.

When the environmental report was prepared over 40 years ago, conditions were drastically different, critics say, and that requires a new report under state law.

For one, CalFire recently updated its hazard maps, which identify the area as a very high fire severity zone. An egress route along the Bell Bluff Truck Trail to the southeast that existed in 1979 is now blocked by a large Sunrise Powerlink operations center.

The development also falls within the county's Multiple Species Conservation Program area that wasn't established until 1997.

An email from county planner Jenna Roady, the previous environmental coordinator on the project, said last February that no determination had been made that an updated environmental review is not required. At a minimum, an addendum will be needed.

"We are in the process of reviewing cultural and biological studies for the project."

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Part of the proposed 600-acre Rancho Palo Verde subdivision next to Palo Verde Lake.
Part of the proposed 600-acre Rancho Palo Verde subdivision next to Palo Verde Lake.

A rural housing project that has been in limbo for decades is worrying Alpine neighbors who found out it may be revived.

The 152-home zombie, known as the Bell Bluff extension, was to be the second phase of the nearly 600-acre Rancho Palo Verde subdivision, until it stalled over lack of water supply, fire risk, and biological impacts.

Those challenges have only intensified since the 1979 environmental impact report was approved. And the county's climate and growth goals have shifted away from sprawl to a village approach. While the proposed development is located in the Alpine Community Planning Area, it falls well outside the village center.

Nay-sayers say they have obtained public records that show the little-known project is moving forward in the planning department.

According to the Cleveland National Forest Foundation, the extension could have disastrous consequences to the Cleveland National Forest, as it would require building a bridge across the Sweetwater River, opening the door to development on the untouched side of the river.

Sponsored
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Other critics include neighbors of Bell Bluff (Bell Bluff is a 3409' peak seven miles east of Alpine) and the Potrero Planning Group. Opponents want the county, in keeping with their goal of reducing sprawl and a November 2022 resolution to promote biodiversity, to cause the property to revert to acreage and cancel the subdivision.

While nay-sayers say they have obtained public records that show the little-known project is moving forward in the planning department, the hurdles it faces today seem insurmountable.

A temporary lien contract that was extended by the county over the years expired on June 14, 2012. No further extensions were approved.

While the development is located in the Alpine Community Planning Area, it falls outside the village center.

The property, now held by out-of-town investors, transferred to Alpine Rancho Palo Verde Planning LLC in 2017.

When the environmental report was prepared over 40 years ago, conditions were drastically different, critics say, and that requires a new report under state law.

For one, CalFire recently updated its hazard maps, which identify the area as a very high fire severity zone. An egress route along the Bell Bluff Truck Trail to the southeast that existed in 1979 is now blocked by a large Sunrise Powerlink operations center.

The development also falls within the county's Multiple Species Conservation Program area that wasn't established until 1997.

An email from county planner Jenna Roady, the previous environmental coordinator on the project, said last February that no determination had been made that an updated environmental review is not required. At a minimum, an addendum will be needed.

"We are in the process of reviewing cultural and biological studies for the project."

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