Apple Valley residents voice frustration at scoping meeting (August 5, 2015)

APPLE VALLEY — Tensions ran high this week at the second scoping meeting held to elicit public input on the town’s possible acquisition of Apple Valley Ranchos Water Company’s water system.

Approximately 40 Apple Valley residents who attended were mostly concerned with getting answers to questions submitted during the first scoping meeting on July 7.

Public agencies must submit an environmental impact report before moving forward with proposed actions — such as the water system acquisition — according to the guidelines of the California Environmental Quality Act.

Seven CEQA areas of interest to be addressed in the EIR include air quality, greenhouse gases, water quality, noise, land use, transportation and utilities, according to an initial study overview.

Transparency and updates on any work that has already been done, however, were key points of interest for several attendees.

“How can we ask questions if we don’t know what you’re doing?” one resident asked.

Other concerns included the possibility of an outside agency managing the town’s water system after the acquisition and Yermo’s water system (recently acquired by AVR) not being included in the proposed acquisition.

Presenters iterated the purpose of the meeting was to gather input that will be analyzed for possible answers to be provided later, but attendees continued to push for immediate responses.

“What more have you learned in your analysis regarding each of these seven CEQA areas?” Apple Valley resident Al Rice asked.

Several residents in favor of acquisition attended the meeting and voiced concerns over AVR’s proposed rate increases, while others questioned whether acquisition would lead to lower water rates.

“I appreciate the frustration expressed last night,” Town Spokeswoman Kathie Martin told the Daily Press. “We have to keep in mind, though, that the purpose of a scoping meeting is to make sure we answer the right questions in the final EIR. That may mean we don’t have the answers right now.”

Martin’s sentiments were echoed by Charity Schiller of Best Best & Krieger LLP, who opened Tuesday night’s proceedings.

“This is the process CEQA envisioned,” Schiller told the frustrated crowd.

The meeting was envisioned as an informal open house during which residents would walk between four stations that included charts and a legal representative available to field comments, according to Schiller, but residents seemed content to express themselves from the comfort of their seats.

Despite the somewhat raucous proceedings, numerous written questions were submitted for inclusion in the EIR, according to Martin.

Comments on the scope of the EIR will be accepted until 5 p.m. on Aug. 19, according to the study overview. A draft EIR is estimated for release in September.

The “AVR Project Notice of Preparation” and “Apple Valley Ranchos Water System Acquisition Project Initial Study” are available at avh2ours.com/council, the town’s project website.

Mailed comments can be addressed to Assistant Town Manager Lori Lamson, Town of Apple Valley, 14955 Dale Evans Parkway, Apple Valley CA 92307. Emails can be sent to [email protected]applevalley.org and faxes to 760-240-7910.

Source: Matthew Cabe, Daily Press