Update on ATV Adventure Trails Pilot Program

By Charles James

The battle continues on the ATV Adventure Trails Pilot Program, slated for a public hearing before the Inyo County Board of Supervisors onJanuary 22 at 10 a.m. in Independence.

Packed Room for BOS Decision on Adventure Trails Pilot Project. Meeting delayed and will be renotices and rescheduled.

Packed Room for BOS Decision on Adventure Trails Pilot Project. Meeting delayed and will be renotices and rescheduled.

Perhaps the “third time will be a charm” for the already twice-scheduled public hearing for consideration by the Supervisors to approve the project’s Environmental Impact Report and allow the pilot project to go forward.

The project has deeply divided the public and the postponements became necessary “out of an abundance of caution” to provide more time for the state’s Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) to provide the County with guidance about the ability of all five members of the Board of Supervisors to participate in the decision-making process.

On October 7, 2011, the California State Legislature passed Assembly Bill 628, which allowed Inyo County to establish a pilot project, known as the ATV Adventure Trails of the Eastern Sierra Pilot Project, to designate combined-use highway segments up to 10 miles long on unincorporated County roads to link existing off-highway-vehicle (OHV) trails and trailheads on federal Bureau of Land Management or United States Forest Service lands. Its stated purpose is to link OHV recreational-use areas with necessary service and lodging facilities, in order to provide a unified system of OHV trails in the Owens Valley. The bill, which only authorizes a proof of concept trial of the program, was supported by the governor’s office.

rhinoadventure.jpg

The pilot project is set to expire in 2018 and “Further delay is impractical,” says Dick Noles, the founder of the Advocates for Access to Public Lands. He has been working on the project for almost seven years and notes that AB 628, sets a deadline of no later than January 1, 2016, for the County, in consultation with the Department of the California, Highway Patrol, the Department of Transportation, and the Department of Parks and Recreation, to “prepare and submit to the Legislature a report evaluating the pilot project as described in Section 38026.1 of the Vehicle Code.” With only a year to conduct the pilot project and evaluation, time is critical says Adventure Trails’ supporters.

Dick Noles

Dick Noles

As to the potential outcome of the conflict of interest concerns stemming from the FPPC’s 500-foot rule, the Inyo County Planning Department explains that, if more than two Supervisors declare a conflict and recuse themselves from the decision making process, in order to ensure a quorum of the Board exists to make the legally required decision, those Supervisors declaring a conflict would have to draw straws to determine which of the disqualified Supervisors will be selected to create a quorum to participate in the decision despite their declared conflict.

The same process will be employed if the FPPC states that three or more Supervisors cannot vote in the process. As a matter of law, if only three members of the Board of Supervisors – a quorum – are available to vote on a decision, then the decision must be approved by all three Supervisors.

“If it turns out only three members of the Board of Supervisors are able to vote on the Adventure Trails project, it will require a unanimous vote, instead of a majority vote,” said County Administrator Kevin Carunchio. “There is an overriding need to use every opportunity to ensure that each member of Board of Supervisors has the best possible information on which to determine their ability to participate in the decision making-process and maintain the integrity of the Adventure Trails project.”

Carunchio acknowledged that nobody was pleased with the need to cancel the December 2nd meeting, and some people did not agree with the decision to schedule the hearing on December 30th. He also recognizes that there may be others who may not be happy with the need to reschedule the meeting.

Regardless of the ruling from the FPPC, Dan Totheroh, who replaces Linda Arcularius in January as the new First District County Supervisor, will need to come up to speed quickly. His vote will be significant in that it will signal whether or not he places the need for more local jobs and the needs of businesses which provide those jobs over the concerns of local environmentalists and homeowners opposed to the project.

Then there is the no-small matter that, if the project is green-lighted by the County Supervisors, the combined-use routes within the City of Bishop must also be approved by the City Council as well. A draft map of local streets and roads were approved by the City Council in July of 2012. There are two newly-elected city councilmembers (Karen Schwartz and Joe Pecsi) and a vacancy created by councilmember Dave Stottlemyre’s resignation to take up the job of County Assessor in January. Stottlemyre’s vacancy will need to be filled for the councilman’s remaining two-year term either by special election or appointment by the Council.

The 500-foot rule on potential conflict of interest may or may not play as a factor on the city council, but because of the city’s small size, councilmembers are more prone to fall under the FPPC’s 500-foot rule than the County Supervisors in the second-largest county by area in California. If so, any conflict of interest will be resolved along similar lines as the County. Based on comments in the past and during the recent campaign candidates’ forum and past council actions, there appears to be support for the project. Businesses and local chambers of commerce have been supportive of the program, as have many residents, especially those that ride ATVs, as well as Veteran and OHV groups concerned over keeping open-access, and multi-use recreation on public lands.

The issue has heated up considerably in online forums on the Sierra Wave and in local newspaper’s Letters to the Editor, pitting opponents and proponents; many of whom are friends and neighbors. As with most issues that involve the passions of the voters, often hyperbole and unproven assumptions become the hallmark of many of the arguments presented so far.

Proponents cite other successful similar programs such as most notably, the Paiute Adventure Trails in Utah, which has operated for over twenty years and proves that opponents citing, air and noise quality issues, safety, and liability concerns, are unfounded. “Why haven’t there been lawsuits in the other communities with similar projects?” said Dick Noles.

While opponents are pushing for a complete re-do of the project, which was approved by both the state legislature and the governor three years ago, Noles stated that starting the planning process over would “kill it,” which is precisely what some of the opponents are hoping will happen. He went on to say that “if there are problems, we can fix it during the trial run,” emphasizing again that he and others feel that claims of increased liability, safety, worsened air quality, and lower property values are unsubstantiated, with no evidence presented by opponents to back their concerns with facts or studies which back their claims.

For more information on the Adventure Trails Project, you can visit the Inyo County Planning Department website at: http://inyoplanning.org/projects/AdventureTrails.htm  or http://www.inyocounty.us/ab628/. You can also contact the Inyo County Public Works Department at(760)878-0207.  Materials for the rescheduled Board of Supervisors meeting will be available on the websites above in early January, where you will also receive another notice regarding the Public Hearing at that time.

 

 

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13 Responses to Update on ATV Adventure Trails Pilot Program

  1. Ken Warner December 29, 2014 at 6:45 pm #

    “…more local jobs and the needs of businesses”

    “…worsened air quality, and lower property values are unsubstantiated”

    Both these claims are unsubstantiated but seem to form the backbone of the arguments on both sides.

     
  2. chris December 29, 2014 at 7:20 pm #

    I find it interesting that the hearing has been postponed (again) because the County’s legal advisor is concerned about, and wants more information regarding a possible conflict of interest because one or more County Supervisors’ property values may be negatively impacted by the proposal (ATV traffic on the streets where they live). Doesn’t that say it all?

     
    • Charles James December 30, 2014 at 2:15 pm #

      You’ve completely misrepresented the facts. Your attempt at smearing the supervisors by not using your full name speaks to itself, but worse, you clearly don’t know what you are talking about…which has probably never stopped you from making things up, if not simply choosing to smear others or just outright lie. Truth and facts still do matter. Sadly, from your comments, you are not in possession of either.

      The “abundance of caution” recommended by County Council was to simply to insure compliance with the FPPC’s 500-foot rule, which was only recently revised a few months ago. The procedure previously used was considered “simplistic” and the FPPC felt they should have a procedure for analyzing conflicts of interest involving real property that actually “analyzes
      the potential for a conflict of interest, rather than just drawing a circle to determine the answer.” The actual result of the rule change appears to have only made it more complicated; the result of which the commission now has to develop “reasoned analysis” and procedures in order to render a decision. According to one legal source, the FPPC did not develop the tools to do so before implementing the change to the regulation. The result is the confusion and delay that we have now seen.

      The 500-foot rule is just one of many regulations on potential and real conflict of interests designed to protect the public from elected or appointed officials using their position or use their influence to receive a “material financial effect, benefit or gain” when conducting public business. Moreover, “any benefit be distinguishable from the public generally,” which is to say, if everyone’s property value within the community benefits, it’s not actually a conflict of interest for a public official to participate or vote on an issue that comes before him or her. (See FPPC regulation § 18707.10. Public Generally, Small Jurisdictions; Effects on Official’s Domicile. –Regulations of the Fair Political Practices Commission, Title 2, Division 6, California Code of Regulations.)

      There is no clear evidence that any of the potentially affected Supervisors on the board stand to benefit or for that matter, suffer loss from implementation of the AAT plan under the 500-foot rule. More to the point, there is no evidence whatsoever to the claim that the delay is” because one or more County Supervisors’ property values may be negatively impacted by the proposal (ATV traffic on the streets where they live).” The reality is, no one knows whether property values would go up or down and either way is only a matter of conjecture and supposition or wishful thinking. Proponents have made no claims that property values will go up, only that opponents’ claims that they will go down are not substantiated.

      Part of the problem in dealing with this issue is simply that emotions are running high. And when emotions run high; facts and reason most often go out the window. And when we cannot appeal to facts, we are not above resorting to appeal to emotions, toss out red herrings, invent straw man arguments, and use any other logical fallacy that we can think to use as long as it will allow us to have our way. There is absolutely nothing wrong with feeling strongly about an issue, particularly one that you are convinced (facts or not) threaten your interests. But there is something wrong with deliberately lying, making up facts, ior as in this case, deliberately smearing those with whom you disagree. Most all of us still do have some principles–we do! The problem with human nature is that our self-interests have a way of getting in the way of them. That, and in today’s political environment, we seem to care more about winning an argument than we do with the truth and facts.

       
      • Wayne December 31, 2014 at 9:45 am #

        Well, considering property values, I do know that if I were making an offer I would consider such nuisance type activities and either take that listing off my list or use it to leverage the offer down.
        Also, it is rare in a rural county’s unincorporated areas to have adequate road and street easements. The combined use routes I am familiar with do not have adequate lane widths, some do not have lane divisor striping as the pavement is too narrow to actually be a two lane and no adequate shouler area (such as Lubken Cayon through the private fenced stretch and most of Tuttle Creek).
        In these areas such open and notorious use over time will establish the use and legally create an easement even without the landowner’s agreement. This creates an adverse possession and, especially for a right-of-way for a nuisance type use, would cause me to significantly leverage down an offer or to avoid the property.

         
        • Wayne January 1, 2015 at 8:31 pm #

          To say that ” Proponents have made no claims that property values will go up, only that opponents’ claims that they will go down are not substantiated.” confirms that the EIR is not adequate. The purpose of the EIR is to conduct an analysis of such issues so the Board of Supervisors have a basis for a decision. Without a such analytical support their decision is arbitrary and capricious and will not survive a legal challenge.

           
      • Conor January 2, 2015 at 1:51 pm #

        No, the realty is that anyone in real-estate will tell you that any time local ordinance and changes are made in certain neighborhoods regarding noise or motorized vehicles, it affects property value. It’s naive to sit there and say it won’t. Of course emotions are running high. People’s homes are going to be affected. People don’t want to deal with noisy ATV’s because those ATV enthusiasts are too lazy to bus themselves up to the trailheads.

        Furthermore, this is an online comment section of a media source, not some official government forum. People should be able to use whatever name they want. It’s not your place or authority to put people on the spot or discredit them because they won’t use their full name. They made their point, if you can’t respond to it in a mature, responsible fashion, don’t read it and move on.

         
  3. Charles O. Jones December 30, 2014 at 9:24 am #

    Money definitely has a way of tainting some people’s judgment on issues. I’m glad we have the
    FPPC to sort through any potential conflicts elected officials may have with this issue.

    In order for this program to be a success for the business community, trail usage will need to increase significantly. There WILL be some negative impacts that accompany a significant increase in usage. To pretend otherwise is just disingenuous. I’m not in favor of inviting these impacts to the valley merely to put profits in the pockets of a few.

     
  4. Eastern Sierra Local December 31, 2014 at 9:59 am #

    I have no opinions regarding this project in the first place but I find it odd that all these Supervisors are having to recuse themselves and County Council and FPPC is so heavily involved in how, who, and when they can vote- it makes me think that the vocal opposition is bringing up issues related only to the process and not the actual project- it looks like NIMBY-ism is strong.

     
  5. Charles James January 1, 2015 at 8:11 pm #

    None of the Supervisors have had to recuse themselves. It may well be that none of them will have to do so. Only two of the Supervisors, Griffiths and Tillemans, live within the 500-foot rule of the AAT project.

    If the FPPC on January 12 makes a determination that there is no issue of “material financial effect, benefit or gain” or that any benefit they might receive is no different than that which benefits the public generally,” all five will likely be able to vote.

    And yes, there is an element of Nimbyism in this issue, as there often are with many issues within the county of late. However, members of the public who own homes, businesses, or property that they feel may be negatively impacted by this project (or any other), including “quality of life” issues, have as much right as anyone to express their opinion. That’s the way it is…and we should be grateful that we live in a country that recognizes their right to do so even if others disagree with their position.

     
  6. April Zrelak January 8, 2015 at 5:57 pm #

    “His vote will be significant in that it will signal whether or not he places the need for more local jobs and the needs of businesses which provide those jobs over the concerns of local environmentalists and homeowners opposed to the project.”

    This is a false choice. First of all, many business owners are also environmentalists and homeowners. Second, you mention jobs as a benefit, but not which ‘concerns’ some opposition have, i.e. air pollution, noise pollution, habitat degradation, erosion. So, this is ‘jobs’ vs ‘environmentalists’ statement, instead of ‘jobs vs air pollution’, for example. Third, there is no study to show any job increase or job retention due solely to this project. That is much more speculative than the increase in dust and noise (which are inherent in driving OHVs on dirt roads). Fourth, concern regarding need for local jobs does not have to translate to approval of this specific project. Licensing a land fill for Los Angeles would bring jobs to Inyo County, too. The point being, even job creation has consequences that must be carefully weighed. It is unfair to the new supervisor to label him as anti job creation if he votes against this proposal.

    Contradictory to the conflict of interest issue, I would like to see each supervisor have a designed route in front of his house as a condition of voting on this proposal. (well, not really, but I expect it would affect the results).

    NIMBYism is a position where you want the benefits of something, but do not want the negative impacts in your own community. In this case, I would bet anyone would be hard pressed to find the AT opposition wanting a similar project anywhere at all.

     
    • Wayne January 9, 2015 at 9:50 am #

      Not NIMBYism: where easements do not exist or are inadequate to cover this type of encumbrance it is about actually taking property rights in our front yards. (If the existing road is too narrow to safely accommodate two way traffic it must be widened to comply with the AB628 mandate to do not anything unsafe, for example) this taking requires due process, the 5th Amendment says so and the 14th Amendment says it applies to takings by State and Local Goverments (substantiation: U.S. Constitution). Numerous court decisions as well as California real estate disclosure laws also establish and substantiate that this type of adverse nuisance use erodes property values. This loss of value applies throughout a neighborhood due to “comparable listings” pricing.

       
    • Russ Monroe January 9, 2015 at 6:35 pm #

      If you would really like to discus; the proposal April……
      Jobs vs environmentalists: Ridiculous! As you wrote: “there is no study to show any job increase or job retention due solely to this project.” Very true, so is: ” the increase in dust and noise (which are inherent in driving OHVs on dirt roads).” Gosh, but, there are also no studies to indicate that there will be any increase in dust and noise because there is no evidence that any increase in traffic will happen. Although dust is inherent in driving an OHV on dirt, that same dust is also inherent in driving every vehical on a dirt road, is it not? A no vote on this proposal will not stop any of the dust that already happens. Every street licensed vehical can still make the same amount of dust and noise, if this is voted in, or out.
      The opposition that I have heard against this proposal centers around the great hoards of criminal OHV riders that will destroy our peace and environment if the proposal goes through. Gibberish! If one buys an OHV to race flat out and do motocross type activities, a mixed use area is the last place one would want go to do that. Jawbone Canyon was set aside for that kind of activity and as a planning tool, it has been very effective in attracting people to do that type of activity there. This proposal does not give anyone any right to break any law. The idea that we are going to suddenly be overrun with OHV has not been justified by any evidence that I have seen.
      But just for the sake of discussion, lets say that the great hoards are about to descend upon us. Knowing that disaster is looming on the horizon, shouldn’t that be our incentive to plan for it? This proposal is and attempt to direct certain traffic to specific routes, it is a beginning of a plan. How, exactly, is not doing anything going to prevent the disaster so many see coming?
      Personally I am very discouraged at the endless prejudiced excrement, publicly pontificated by may “opponents”, without addressing anything that is actually in this proposal.
      As far as NIMBYism goes: OHVs are here! They have been here for many decades and they will continue to be here. This proposal is the beginning of working out a plan. No plan at all is a very, very, bad idea from my point of view.

       
  7. Trouble January 11, 2015 at 10:26 am #

    What hog wash the opponents of the trail system are feeding off of.

     

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