Saturday, February 27, 2010
Friday, February 26, 2010
I looked up the City Council agenda for next Tuesday. The Introduction to the Natural Open Space (NOS) Zoning Ordinance is not on the agenda as I expected. I checked with Planning and it was not ready and will be introduced March 9, then will go before Council for Discussion and Action March 30. Mark you calendar for that day if you want to attend. There will be two versions. One will be with the CPC recommendations and the other with the OSAB recommendations.
Dear Frontera Supporters,
I want to alert you to an issue that may come as a surprise if you plan on speaking to property owners about conservation easements as a land preservation tool. Please be aware that there IS recent bad press about land trusts out there, however it is false, misinformation. On Feb 15th, Fox news aired a short piece in which land trusts and their activities were misrepresented as participating in eminent domain, working with government agencies to take land away from private property owners. This is simply not true. The following is an excerpt from the national Land Trust Alliance newsletter (copied below) about the issue. We at Frontera can provide correct information to interested land owners.
"On Monday, a Fox Cable News interview accused land trusts of working “in cahoots” with the government to condemn private property. This reckless misinformation has caused its own blizzard of outrage from the land trust community, and the Land Trust Alliance is working quickly to set the facts straight. Just another example of why we are stronger when we work together.
"On February 15, Fox Cable News broadcast an interview with Becky Norton Dunlop, vice president of external relations at The Heritage Foundation. In it, she states that land trusts are “in cahoots” with the federal government to take private property from unsuspecting landowners. While many of the statements made are untrue, this allegation has the potential to hurt the reputation of land trusts and land conservation.
"Alliance President Rand Wentworth is asking for a private meeting with Ms. Dunlop to discuss how land trusts respect private property rights, only enter into voluntary agreements, provide property owners with additional choices for preventing development on their land, do not participate in eminent domain, and, in fact, offer the kind of private sector action that is widely supported by majorities of both Republicans and Democrats. Times like these emphasize the need for the land trust community to build strong relationships with their representatives in Congress, as well as deep and wide support in their communities to ensure that private land conservation is impervious to misguided attacks.
"To reiterate, here are some talking points if you are contacted about this piece:
· Land trusts save land that provides important public benefits, including fresh water, clean air, local food and places to explore (or insert your particular benefits)
· Land trusts respect private property rights
· Conservation easements are private, voluntary agreements
· Land trusts do not participate in eminent domain actions
· Land trusts offer the kind of private sector action that is widely supported by majorities of both Republicans and Democrats"
Please feel free to contact me to discuss further if you like.
“'A' Mountain is part of 588 acres of the privately owned land of the Coles. (Picture here.) The Coles have not been willing to discuss a sale of their land in order to preserve it as open space. They lease the ridge to communications companies purportedly for a substantial sum of money."
"The beauty of a conservation easement is that the Cole's, would continue to own the land, they would continue to reap the benefits of the lease of their land to the tower/communications companies, AND they quite possibly would enjoy the federal income tax benefits of a charitable donation of a conservation easement on the surrounding land...an incentive that would reduce their federal income taxes related to the purported "substantial sum of money" they receive on the same land."Sensational news stories such as the one that aired on FOX do not help.
Thursday, February 25, 2010
This past Saturday evening (February 20, 2010) Charlie Wakeem received the Conservation Award from the El Paso/Trans-Pecos Audubon Society at their Annual Awards Banquet held at Jaxon's on Airway.
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
The City Plan Commission (CPC) voted 4 to 2 agreeing with staff. Most of the CPC is composed of members of the development community.
The real issue is how serious the City of El Paso is about protecting wildlife in its three major wildlife preserves: Keystone, Feather Lake, and Rio Bosque. Is it the fault of these preserves a high impact land use would move next door to them? Who should be responsible for the buffers, walls and setbacks? Open Space Advisory Board Chairman, Charlie Wakeem, says that there may be some room for compromise such as reducing the height of the rock wall from 10' to 8' and perhaps allowing for a less expensive material than rock. The 10' landscape buffer and setbacks are very important in order to protect the wildlife, particularly migratory birds and their breeding.
If the wildlife preserves are to be responsible for the strict protection restrictions as recommended by staff and the CPC and there are now only three wildlife preserves in El Paso and all three are owned by the City of El Paso, then shouldn't the City of El Paso pony up for those wildlife protections? It will be interesting to see how City Council members feel about doling out your tax money when industrial businesses encroach on your wildlife preserves.
Members of the original Open Space Committee tried to get the NOS zoning ordinance passed since the Open Space Plan was approved in March 2007. It was stalled and pigeonholed until OSAB became a board over 6 months ago. The Open Space Master Plan recommended implementation of this zoning ordinance within 6 to 12 months of the plan's approval (March 17, 2007). Here it is - three years later.
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
- Parkland dedication as a tool to provide much needed parks
- Acquisition of smaller parks (excepting in parts of the City with slower growth
- Trail development in parks
- Use of stormwater fee to fund open space
- Core staff improvements, automation, fiscal accounting
- Parkland improvements
- Parkland acquisition in areas of City with slower growth
- Acquisition of non-stormwater related open space
- Open Space oversight structure
- Longer trail corridors
- Long term governance structure
- Parkland acquisition to address community and regional park needs
- Regional park development
- Annual capital expenditure funding source for immediate park system needs
- Opportunity funding for open space and trails
Monday, February 15, 2010
Sunday, February 14, 2010
Thursday, February 11, 2010
"This area is at the top of Hondo Pass and already has some gnarly jeep roads. Jen and I have been eyeballing some routes through the area but have been hesitant to put in the effort since it is private land. This area would allow access into another stash of future trails which would be very close to town."
Wednesday, February 3, 2010
It seems that owners of 26 acres of land west of Scenic Drive on the east side of the mountain and another 623 acres further north near Hondo Pass are for sale and the owners have indicated that they would prefer to see the land be preserved as open space rather than be developed. However, they have indicated that they need to make a decision soon.
Discussion and action on directing staff to negotiate for parcels on the east side of the mountain owned by Daniel T. Knapp, R.E. Knapp, Palo Verde Properties, R.E. and R.A. Knapp for the purpose of open space preservation.
I wanted to let you know about an item that I posted with Rep. Robinson on Tuesday's council agenda during Executive Session. There are 26 acres of land available for sale west of Scenic Drive between Wheeling and Savannah [see map posted above]. You have probably seen the For Sale sign. Ideally, I would like to see that land preserved as part of the Franklin State Park. My sense is that most people would agree and would not like to see it developed. The owners would like to see it go to that purpose also but they are paying taxes on the land and need to make some decisions about it soon. I think we might have an option where we could do some sort of short term arrangement with them (a lease or an option) that would allow us a little bit of time to go make a case to the State to buy it. I'm going to ask council to authorize staff to begin negotiating with the property owners to do this.
It would be great to get letters of support to preserve the land for open space . . . “ I would need all of this by Monday though. If you can't have a formal vote on this, can you request that individuals who are supportive email me a note of support?
Thanks. Let me know if you have any questions and if this is something that you might be able to do.
City Council Representative, District 2