Independence, CA; May 5, 2006 —
A proposed high-end subdivision, located in one of the most pristine landscapes in America, Mt. Whitney Portal, may be closer to breaking ground today. This, after the Inyo County Superior Court ruled that problems with the project’s Environmental Impact Report (EIR) should not have prevented Inyo County Board of Supervisors from approving the project. While the ruling was a disappointment to local residents and conservation groups, who have voiced concerns about community and environmental impacts, hopes for a collaborative resolution remain.
“This is, at most, a temporary setback for our mission to ensure responsible decision making regarding development and growth in Inyo County,” said Jennifer Fenton, president of Save Round Valley Alliance (SRVA). “The mountain and the beautiful landscape surrounding it are a treasure for Inyo County and those who visit.”
SRVA and its conservation partners are now considering the next steps to move forward. The Inyo County Court decision may lead to an appeal but for now, SRVA hopes to avoid any unnecessary litigation. “The Whitney Portal Preserve project can be a great example of what can be accomplished when willing parties sit down at the negotiation table and seriously consider viable options.” Fenton said.
A compromise solution does seem to be in the works. A number of local, state, and national land trusts, as well as several state and federal agencies have expressed interest in acquiring the project lands. SRVA and its partner organizations have stepped forward to help facilitate the potential deal. Options include an exchange of the proposed development land with comparable land closer to the town of Lone Pine and existing infrastructure. Other options include a straightforward buy out of the developer’s interests on the property. “We are committed to preserving this grand public resource, and we feel lucky to have so many avenues to a win-win solution,” said Fenton. “We all recognize the need for responsible, well-planned development that includes affordable housing and resource management, our hope is to set a precedence using Whitney Preserve as a wonderful example of what can happen with a little willingness and creativity.”
Fenton went on to say, “We are excited about moving forward, and now it is just a matter of getting the right pieces in the right places. We are committed to seeing a better future in the Eastern Sierra.”
SRVA Advocates for Smart Growth is a non-profit organization working to promote sustainable development in the Eastern Sierra region.