Owners of properties in two hillside communities west of Temecula criticized Riverside County supervisors Tuesday for plans to impose new building restrictions in the area and urged the board to immediately lift a moratorium that has prevented the owners from making changes to their lots.
"Stop the county land grab,'' said Barbara Bowers of Concerned Citizens of the Santa Rosa Plateau. "If you want these properties for conservation, buy them like everybody else.''
Ted Miller owns two five-acre parcels along the plateau. "The ridgeline ordinance and the moratorium are terrible, unfair and unjustified,'' he said. "I can't build on my property. There are so many restrictions, you've made it impossible for me to build... It's almost like you just want to take my land and don't want to see me again. That's really upsetting.''
In November 2010, the board approved an emergency ordinance that prohibited residential subdivisions, grading or land modifications of any significance throughout the northern and southern Santa Rosa Plateau escarpments.
Supervisors Bob Buster and Jeff Stone, whose districts intersect along the ridgeline, pushed for the moratorium, citing concerns that planned developments could hasten soil erosion, damage drainage patterns and ruin the area's aesthetics.
Land-use restrictions were imposed on tracts throughout the communities of De Luz and La Cresta, specifically located at Camino Gatillo and Via Horca; Via Vista Grande and Claremont Street; Corte Hanna and Paseo Montana; and Calle de Lobo and Farrelly Circle.
The board directed the county Transportation and Land Management Agency to draft an ordinance that would create new construction and zoning standards intended to minimize the effect of homebuilding while respecting property owners' rights.
In October, a proposed ordinance had still not been brought forward, leading the board to extend the moratorium another 12 months and order that a measure be drawn up without delay.
The TLMA introduced a proposed measure to the county Planning Commission on Nov. 16, but the commissioners rejected the concept 5-0 after hearing testimony from 37 property owners -- all opposed to an ordinance.
"It would have been nice if the commission had come up with its own regulations instead of flatly denying ours and throwing this back to the board,'' Stone said. "I want this sent back to the commission and have them address the ordinance to come up with something that makes sense.''
He said despite the hang-up, the moratorium should be lifted, as the board had indicated it would do by the beginning of this year. Buster concurred, saying a vote on ending the moratorium on development in the escarpment area will be one of the items on the board's Jan. 24 agenda.
Some property owners vowed to fight the county in court over any future plans for additional building restrictions.
"All of us are restricted by these overly onerous policies the board seeks to implement,'' said Andy Weigel, who said his family "sunk'' millions of dollars in land throughout the plateau.
"Never did we anticipate that our county representatives would seek to curb our rights,'' he said.
"We can't build or sell our property because of the moratorium,'' said Cindy Sutherland. "If the county's intent is to preserve the land, then use your power of eminent domain and pay people a fair market value (for their holdings).''