Tejon Mountain Village Approved By Planning Commission
TurnTo23.com | September 10, 2009
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. -- Supporters of one of the largest projects in the county's history celebrated the project's recommendation from the planning commission Thursday night. Tejon Mountain Village, which proposes 3,450 housing lots, as well as 160,000 square feet of commercial space and luxurious resort amenities, was approved by a 3-2 margin. The project aspires to be the "gateway to Kern County," said Barry Zoeller of Tejon Ranch Company.
"We're a company that keeps its word," added Joe Drew of Tejon. "And what you have before you tonight in this project for Mountain Village is another project we intend to keep our word about."
Supporters of the proposed resort community highlighted an expected tourism boost in Kern County.
"The beauty that is going to be marketed, not only through [Tejon's] efforts, but through the county's efforts to bring tourism dollars into our county is something we have absolutely got to consider," said Jim Baldwin of the Kern County Board of Trade.
Supporters also argued for job creation and other economic benefits.
"This is our neighbor," said Stacey Havener, a resident of Pine Mountain Club. "This is somebody developing that is a private landowner of our area, not a developer buying up a bunch of land, mowing it down and throwing houses up."
Much of the usual environmental opposition to a project this size did not materialize, mostly because of the conservation agreement Tejon Ranch brokered last year with five of the nation's most powerful environmental groups last year, including the Sierra Club and Audubon California.
In that agreement, Tejon agreed to conserve much of the ranch in exchange for the groups to not oppose limited developments like Tejon Mountain Village.
But groups like the Center for Biological Diversity voiced their opposition, mainly over the threat to the population of the condor.
"It's building houses in the middle of prime foraging habitat, and it's replacing natural feed of a species with a handout," said Adam Keats of the center. "It's not natural, it's not ethical, it's not legal."
A group of residents also opposed the increased traffic, the proximity to seismic faults, and water consumption, including the filling of Castac Lake by Tejon.
"Creating a 400-acre lake for aesthetic purposes is indeed a beneficial use in an era of water shortages and loss of crop production," said Doug Peters.
In a vote that almsot mirrored the one on the Frazier Park Estates project two weeks ago, Commissioners Ron Sprague, Jose Flores and Chris Babcock voted in favor of the project, while Pete Belluomini and Leticia Perez voted against it.
"I like the project," Sprague said. "I think it can be developed properly under good stewardship."
With the 3-2 vote, the project moves to the Board of Supervisors first on September 22. But planning staff will recommend it be continued to an all-day, special session of the Board on Monday, October 5, according to Lorelei Oviatt of the planning department.