No clustering—that’s the message the Village Business Association is trying to get across to the city of Big Bear Lake. VBA members are shouting it loud and clear.
At an Aug. 31 Village Specific Plan meeting hosted by the city’s Improvement Agency, the public was asked to weigh in on a number of options for upgrading the 20-year-old plan. What wasn’t addressed was a proposal for more workforce housing in the Village area, according to Charlie Brewster and Ginger Buddington, president and vice president respectively of the VBA. That discussion came later.
The city is in final negotiations with a developer to build a 42-unit workforce housing complex on the eastern perimeter of the Village at Knickerbocker Road across from Big Bear Elementary School. The VBA opposition to the project didn’t sway the IA board, which is the Big Bear Lake City Council, but the VBA asked that no similar projects be approved for the Village area.
On Aug. 31, Brewster said he learned the city is considering another affordable workforce housing project on Bartlett Road. The property is the site of the former Verizon building and adjacent lots to the west. Sale pending signs are attached to the For Sale signs on lots that include the Verizon facility and vacant lots that reach to Beaver and Badger lanes.
Brewster said at the Aug. 31 meeting, he learned the IA wants to take a proposed zoning change and the ideas for changes in the Village Specific Plan to the Planning Commission within 60 to 90 days. That’s what drew his attention to the Verizon property.
Brewster said the VBA won’t wait to voice its opposition to this proposal. “We cannot afford even the outside possibility of allowing low to moderate housing in the Village,” Brewster said.
Apparently there are a number of sites open to developers for low to moderate income housing within the city limits. The city as the IA is required to use a percentage of its IA funds to provide affordable housing. Brewster and Buddington, and other Village merchants they represent through the VBA, feel the proposed project would degrade the Village as a prime shopping and dining area and tourist destination.
The VBA was revitalized about 14 months ago when the city’s Village Advisory Committee was disbanded. At that time, Haynes suggested two committees, a VBA type group and another to review the Village Specific Plan and make recommendations. The review committee never got off the ground, Brewster said.
The VBA prospered and has evolved to a vital business and property owners organization. Earlier this year, the VBA presented the city with a list of 12 suggestions for improvements such as access and lighting, as well as parking. The city is conducting a lighting study, but little else has been accomplished, Brewster said.
“They’re placating us,” Buddington said. “They’re infusing small tokens to diffuse the situation,” she said of city officials regarding the VBA’s requests for improvements.
The VBA wants the Village to be excluded from the affordable housing approval area, Brewster said. Workforce housing may be needed, but not in the core of the Village, Brewster said. “We thought the city worked for us, not that we worked for the city,” he said.
In response to the IA’s move toward affordable housing complexes within the Village Specific Plan, the VBA is circulating form letters to property and business owners, and residents asking for support to oppose the zoning change and affordable housing plan in the Village. A joint meeting of the IA and Big Bear Lake Planning Commission is set for Sept. 22 where Haynes will present the ideas. Brewster wants the letters back in time for that meeting, or sooner, he said.
The Village area needs upgrades, and the proposed area is ideal for a park or amphitheater, Brewster said. “To see it given away to meet 2014 regulations is ludicrous,” Brewster said.