Riverside County MSHCP project approval process improved
EHL worked with development stakeholders and the County of Riverside to streamline project review under the County’s habitat plan while preserving biological goals.
Our regional multiple species conservation plans – like the Western Riverside County Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan, or MSHCP, adopted in 2003 – provide benefits to many constituencies. This is one of their strengths. When the development community raised concern over costly procedures in complying with the plan, EHL helped convene discussions that led to a good outcome.
The MSHCP is assembled over time and has a highly structured process to ensure that any proposed development is consistent with the plan. The plan contains detailed criteria which guide project planning as to where preservation is needed. Sometimes a development proposal is completely out of the area where assembly will occur and only mitigation fees are paid. But at other times, land must be set aside on-site or negotiations for land acquisition ensue. The entire process was designed to protect legitimate property rights.
Developers and property owners raised concerns that the County of Riverside was requiring unnecessary time and expense at the earliest phase of project approval. EHL was worried, though, that biologically sound project design actually needed such early input. With support from the Board of Supervisors, EHL convened discussions with developers, the wildlife agencies, the Planning Department and County Counsel, and the Regional Conservation Authority, which oversees implementation of the MSCHP.
We examined the experience gained over the last decade and collectively determined that breaking the process down into two steps was appropriate: 1) applying the MSHCP’s site design criteria at the early planning stages, like a change of zoning, and 2) deferring the more expensive survey work to when an actual subdivision is proposed, when the surveys would also be more current.
This is a good example of how continued stakeholder collaboration can solve problems and we thank the Board of Supervisors for empowering the dialogue.