Conservancy board to vote on response to City Council hearing

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Joe Edmiston, executive director of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, said in an interview Friday morning that the state agency’s board would vote on how to proceed with its parks enhancement proposal during a meeting on Nov. 26 at King Gillette Ranch.

“I don’t know,” said Edmiston when asked what his next step would be. “The issue will be agendized at the meeting. And what I will do will depend on how the board votes.”

Edmiston said the board will receive a recommendation from the staff, but he declined to say what it would be. He said a staff recommendation would be made public along with the release of the agenda sometime next week, perhaps as early as Wednesday.

The conservancy head declined to give his opinion on Tuesday’s City Council hearing at which he verbally sparred with city officials and accused them of holding the conservancy’s “feet to the fire.” He also would not comment on whether he even planned to attend the second session of the hearing on Dec. 5 at which time the City Council is expected to vote on the proposal.

The City Council did not take a final vote Tuesday on the conservancy’s plan, which calls for 26 overnight camping sites as well as enhancements to the local trails and expansion of the public transportation to the parks along with the construction of at least one parking lot. But the council did take several straw votes, with one calling for the construction of an access road from Kanan Dume Road to Ramirez Canyon Park if the conservancy wants to be allowed to have an increased number of events at the park. An angry Edmiston said that would be unfair because in order to build that access road, he would need to purchase an estimated $7.1 million property off Kanan Dume from owner Harold Lauber. And with the council requiring him to build the road, Lauber had unlimited potential for how far he could raise the price, Edmiston said. California Coastal Commission staff has also preliminarily said the property is located in an environmentally sensitive habitat area, or ESHA. State law prohibits development within 100 feet of an ESHA.

Edmiston was also displeased during Tuesday night’s hearing when City Councilmember Sharon Barovsky proposed that no cooking be allowed at the overnight camping sites. Her idea was raised just after midnight, less than an hour after the council members by a 4-1 vote endorsed overnight camping with propane stoves at Charmlee Wilderness Park and the parks at Ramirez and Corral canyons. The council did not vote on Barovsky’s concept, but Mayor Jeff Jennigs said he might be inclined to support it.

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