HESPERIA — The court battle that delayed construction of the massive Tapestry housing project has been resolved after the Terra Verde Group made major concessions, city officials announced Tuesday evening.
The settlement was reached between Terra Verde and the Center for Biological Diversity, which led the lawsuit along with the San Bernardino Valley Audubon Society and the Sierra Club, Mayor Paul Russ told the Daily Press.
One of the main settlement points was the removal of 533 homes in the Grass Valley Village area, which equates to losing nearly ”$50 million” of the project’s value, said Terra Verde Group Director of Development John Ohanian, who also said a lawsuit filed by the Crestline Sanitation District has been settled.
“The City’s Ad Hoc committee was instrumental in getting the settlement framed,” Ohanian told the Daily Press. “They also pushed for the reduction in the development’s footprint on the Summit Valley floor.
“By removing an entire area to the south, we carved out 1,060 additional acres of open space for wildlife and the arroyo toad,” Ohanian said. “We took our density down to 15,663 dwelling units and managed to create several habitat enhancements and corridors that allows wildlife to move around and under roadways.”
With fewer homes in Tapestry’s updated project, the estimated population of nearly 50,000 will drop by 1,800 residents, and will closely resemble the former Rancho Las Flores project, which Terra Verde purchased in a bankruptcy sale nearly five years ago.
Construction of Phase 1 of the Tapestry Project will begin 12 to 18 months after construction plans are approved by the city. Before that, Terra Verde’s financial and development agreements must be approved, Ohanian said. Homes are expected to start going up in early 2019, Russ said.
“You know the Terra Verde Group is committed to this community when they make millions of dollars in concessions and plan to spend $7 billion in capital improvements by the time the 30-year project is complete,” Russ said. “This project is going to create an enormous amount of jobs for our residents and build much needed homes.”
The Terra Verde Group not only agreed to pay all attorney fees, but the company also will pick up all costs associated with the project, said Russ, who added that current Hesperia residents won’t be paying anything to support the Tapestry Project.
Filed shortly after the master-planned community was approved by the City Council in January 2016, the lawsuit claimed Tapestry’s 16,196 homes in the southeast region of Hesperia would “destroy more than 5,800 acres of wildlands, endangered species’ critical habitat, wetlands and farmland.”
The Center for Biological Diversity’s staff attorney April Rose Sommer told the Daily Press last year the “poorly sited and insufficiently reviewed project would plunge a dagger into the heart of one of the region’s most beautiful and important ecosystems.”
She also added greenhouse gas emissions would be staggering and the “area’s wildlife and wildlands will suffer greatly if this ill-conceived project is built.”
“We’ve given the Center for Biological Diversity an option to buy and make the open space a wildlife habitat,” Ohanian said. “If they don’t, I will create an easement district for the benefit of the toads and other wildlife.”
The CBD has the option of buying Tapestry’s open space, including the 1,060 acres in the Grass Valley Village area, at 75 percent of the fair market value, Russ said.
“The acreage total for the Center for Biological Diversity comes to just under 2,500 acres,” Ohanian said. “That’s 1,060 acres from the omitted Grass Valley Village and another 1,400 acres already set apart for the toad.”
Ohanian said the settlement also included an increase in solar energy production, adding the project will try to mimic the city of Lancaster’s new energy ordinance.
In 2013, Lancaster became the first U.S. city to require photovoltaics to be installed on all new homes, according to the Clean Energy Technology Center.
“This is the only project in the U.S. that I know of that will have an overall net zero carbon footprint,” Russ said. “If you let the market take its place, they will be environmentally sensitive. It wasn’t government forcing them to do it, it was the developer.”
“The Crestline Sanitation District lawsuit has also been resolved,” Ohanian said. “We removed a portion of Phase 10 and gave them a long-term agreement for discharge.”
The Crestline Sanitation District said last year that Tapestry poses “substantial conflicts” with its wastewater management operation in Phase 10 of the specific plan as it discharges secondary treated effluent (treated waste). The discharge flows directly into nearly 825 acres of the property formerly known as Las Flores Ranch, which is partially located in the Tapestry community.
The sanitation district has used the discharged area for about 40 years, with a permit from the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board. The effluent is used for irrigation of grazing land and recharges the groundwater basin through percolation, according to the Tapestry EIR.
“I realize traffic will be an issue with the building of the project, but Tapestry will conduct a new traffic survey every time 200 homes are built,” Russ said. “Tapestry will do everything they can to mitigate the problems.”
Terra Verde promised last year to pay $12 million for the widening of portions of Ranchero Road and improvements to I Avenue from Ranchero Road to Main Street, all before a single home is built for the community that will include multiple schools, parks, trails and 1.4 million square feet of commercial/retail space.
Since Tapestry was introduced to the public in January 2015, many residents claimed Tapestry would bring added crime, traffic congestion, noise and air pollution. They also remarked the project would destroy the beauty and nature of the Summit Valley area.
In contrast, a handful of people have praised the project, saying Tapestry would produce local jobs, revitalize the local economy, make homes available to millennials and provide major road improvements to I Avenue and Ranchero Road.