Tejon Ranch resort project targeted
BY SARAH RUBY, Californian staff writer
e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org | Thursday, May 25 2006 7:10 PM
A Frazier Park-based activist group and its environmental partners will not rest until they've slowed down or stopped Tejon Ranch Co.'s plan to build a resort community in the mountains nearby.
A member of TriCounty Watchdogs said as much this week in a letter of introduction to Tejon Ranch's new development partner, DMB Associates Inc. of Scottsdale, Ariz. The two companies will share the profits from Tejon Mountain Village, a 28,000-acre mix of homes and open space east of Interstate 5 about 40 miles south of Bakersfield.
TriCounty Watchdogs will "use every legal means at our disposal to slow down and if possible halt your projected development," wrote Jan de Leeuw, a statistics professor at UCLA and a member of TriCounty Watchdogs' executive board.
TriCounty Watchdogs formed about three years ago to respond to several local issues, development among them. It has a five-member executive board, and its membership is considered to include anyone who shows up to its events. Meetings to discuss development projects typically draw about 40 people, de Leeuw said.
The group has no budget and will conduct its fight with the help of various environmental groups, de Leeuw said in an interview Thursday. Chief among them is the Center for Biological Diversity, a nonprofit with a roughly $3-million annual budget that funds activism in the western United States and elsewhere.
"We are absolutely committed to this issue for the long haul," said Peter Galvin, the center's conservation director. "This is one of the most important wildland areas in Southern California -- in California overall."
The two groups have a range of concerns regarding the Tejon Ranch plans, from whether there's enough water in the area to feed more people to whether the endangered California condor can survive alongside hotels, golf courses and mountain homes. There is also some concern that the most pristine properties are being developed instead of land that's already been disturbed.
But Tejon Ranch spokesman Barry Zoeller said Tejon Mountain Village will have an "environmentally sensitive, light-touch design." Zoeller said he was unimpressed with the letter and with environmentalists' concerns, which he says are premature.
"I liken it to people who write a book review before the book is written," he said.
Tejon Ranch is still working on extensive environmental studies of the property, he said. He expects they'll be done and released to the public sometime next year.