24 October 2017

Chino Hills & Diamond Bar Sue Over Tres Hermanos Ranch Sale

It's hot off the (electronic) press, being posted just about 20 minutes ago, but the San Gabriel Valley Tribune has an article detailing the lawsuits filed on Friday the 20th by the cities of Chino Hills and Diamond Bar against the sale of the 2,450-acre Tres Hermanos Ranch, which is within their borders, to the City of Industry.

Mark Hensley, city attorney for Chino Hills, wrote in his filing that Industry "deceived the Oversight Board [for the former Industry redevelopment agency] and the public by consistently making false statements that the property would be used for open space and recreational purposes" while spending millions of dollars in studies for a solar farm that would cover about 40% of the land.  Hensley argued that "as a result of this deception the affected taxing agencies have been harmed."

Tres Hermanos Ranch from the south, March 2016.

Industry secured a 4-3 vote by the oversight board because of an offer to use Tres Hermanos land for public access and for the preservation of open space and has, it's been reported, contacted the Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation about ways this could be done, presumably on the remaining 60% of the ranch, or about 1,550 acres.

Statutes require the oversight boards of former redevelopment agencies to secure the "best and highest value" for former redevelopment property, like Tres Hermanos.  A question would be whether this is solely measured in dollars lost to cities like Chino Hills and Diamond Bar, because the appraised value of the ranch was up to approximately $120 million and the agreed-upon purchase price was just south of $42 million.  The suits claim the ranch should be sold to the highest bidder

Notably, these suits challenge the sale as their major focus, though there are expressed concerns about the proposed solar project violating state environmental laws and local planning ordinances.  Interestingly, the Chino Hills filing includes letters from the Chino Valley Fire District and the County of San Bernardino supporting the city's allegations.

Here is the full article, which will appear in tomorrow's print edition.

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