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Foes of Bonelli Plan Garner Little Support

October 18, 1987|RANDA CARDWELL | Times Staff Writer

Opponents of a county plan to allow commercial development in Frank G. Bonelli Regional Park have had little success in persuading surrounding cities to join the fight.

Only the San Dimas City Council and the Diamond Bar Municipal Advisory Council have voted to oppose the plan. The park lies within San Dimas city limits and is near Diamond Bar.

Meanwhile, the Walnut City Council voted last month not to join the opposition; the La Verne council has accepted the plan with some conditions; the Claremont council has refused to take a position, and the Pomona council has delayed taking a stand until it consults with Supervisor Pete Schabarum, the plan's sponsor.

"We're quite a ways away from Bonelli Park," said Walnut Mayor Harvey Holden. "What we decided in a 3-2 vote was to not do anything." Holden noted that the city has no regulatory power over the park.

Claremont and La Verne officials criticized some revenue-producing aspects of the plan in responses they filed to a revised environmental impact report on the project. But they refused to oppose the development. Several city officials said that in light of the county's scaled-down plan, they would rather cooperate than fight an unwinnable battle.

"We don't think we've come up with a response that's a deal killer," said Claremont Councilman Bill McCready. "We're trying to come up with a good compromise for our constituents."

In response to public protests last summer, the county significantly scaled down its plan to raise revenue for the park by permitting commercial development. It eliminated plans for an amphitheater, a tramway and retail outlets but kept plans for the main revenue-producers: a lodge, chalets and a restaurant. The plan also includes an equestrian training center, a picnic area and a nature center.

"We're trying to work in a cooperative manner with the county," La Verne Mayor Jon Blickenstaff said. "We feel it is a partnership."

La Verne voted to back the revised plan on the condition that the county promise not to allow further development in the park. City officials said the proposed projects would leave about 73% of the park undeveloped.

La Verne wants part of the new revenue to be used for park improvements. It also wants the county to take steps to eliminate permanent residents in trailers in Bonelli's recreational vehicle park.

The Board of Supervisors is expected to act on the plan before the end of the year. Because the plan is being pushed by Schabarum, who represents much of the San Gabriel Valley, there is little likelihood that it will be rejected, county officials say.

The county estimates that commercial development will generate $500,000 a year, which would help offset the $2.4 million required to maintain the park each year.

The development plans for the park, first released last year, are part of efforts to ensure that county parks generate their own revenue and can help pay their own way if state funds for parks and recreation are cut, said Ray Anderson, an aide to Schabarum.

But opponents are adamantly against the use of parkland for commercial purposes. Despite lack of support from surrounding cities, they have vowed to continue fighting the plan.

Spearheading the opposition is the Coalition to Preserve Bonelli Park, a citizens group that claims to represent more than 1,000 people in the San Dimas area.

That group is focusing its lobbying efforts on the San Dimas City Council.

"The only thing the other cities contribute is moral support," said Denis , Bertone, co-chairman of the coalition.

Bertone said the failure of nearby cities to come out against the plan "just shows they don't want to antagonize" the county.

He said the coalition believes that it can most effectively fight through the San Dimas council because many of its members live in San Dimas and have more influence with the council than with the county.

Even if the supervisors approve the plan, the coalition expects San Dimas to continue fighting it and sue the county if necessary, Bertone said.

San Dimas Mayor Don Haefer said the city will consider court action if it is economically feasible. But Councilmen Curt Morris and Sandy McHenry said they would be reluctant to use taxpayers' money to sue another public entity.

"I think it will be very, very difficult to block the development," Morris said. "It would take a lot to convince me" to sue the county.

The council met in closed session last month with City Atty. J. Kenneth Brown to review its legal options.

"We don't know what the law is in this area," said City Manager Bob Poff. "It would be very inappropriate to talk about it at this point."

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