Talk to Highland city officials long enough and you’re bound to hear the story about potential developers.
They’ll draw a circle around the city and notice that to the south is the Santa Ana River Wash. Now that it’s becoming a Habitat Conservation Plan, you’ll never see houses there — good news for lovers of open space and endangered species, but not so good for city planners who want more rooftops to support restaurants and retail.
On the north part of the circle, the developer sees mountains. A smart developer would look closer and see the San Bernardino National Forest is among the most populated in the nation. Just 14 miles downhill from Running Springs and you’re in Highland.
The City Council has been unabashedly aggressive in opening up more space for housing. In May, it approved a general plan amendment that could open up room for 500 houses south of Greenspot Road north of the wash.
Which brings us to the Harmony master-planned community.
Supporters see it as natural extension of the east valley development that will provide lots of open space, trails and revenue for urgently needed infrastructure improvements.
Opponents see it as a horrific example of urban sprawl that will make our traffic worse, crowd our schools and stretch our fire and police resources.
The Highland Community News would like to see compromise.
The foes were gleeful over Judge Donald Alvarez’ rulings that scolded the city for its mixed messages on a second bridge across Mill Creek and its refusal to consider Alternative A, which would cut the number of homes nearly in half.
It may be that those challenges will kill the project, which could mean we’d have piecemeal developments that don’t provide the needed improvement.
As Harmony critic Gilda Gularte points out, Lewis Homes, the would-be developer, has been down this path before in Riverside County. After a similar ruling, the environmental review was revised and that project is back on track.
With 16 weeks to go until the Nov. 6 election, we’re going to continue to cover the Harmony project one issue at a time — traffic, schools, water and more.
We urge readers to share their views, tell us the questions they want answered and propose workable alternatives.
It should a fun debate.