HESPERIA - The new-look City Council will have its hands full as it charges into 2017 and deals with several key areas.
Here are the top five issues the Council will face in the new year:
Over the last few years, Hesperia has witnessed several major road projects, including the Ranchero Underpass and Ranchero Interchange at Interstate 15. The projects have increased traffic flow on Ranchero Road, prompting the city to plan improvements along the nearly 7-mile stretch of road.
Next year, traffic signals will be installed at two intersections along Ranchero Road, including the cross streets of Maple and Cottonwood avenues, just west of the California Aqueduct.
Hesperia also will begin the initial process of widening Ranchero Road, with the city and county funding the project along with $10 million pledged by Terra Verde Group, developer of the Tapestry Project. The city also will work to try to obtain funding from San Bernardino Associated Governments.
Hesperia also will seek federal funding for widening the aqueduct bridges on Ranchero Road and Main Street.
Hesperia should see the construction of ALDI grocery store on Main Street in 2017, as well as the opening of a 3,645-square-foot mini-mart, which includes four fuel islands, an automated carwash and two 2,546-square-foot drive-thru restaurants on just under 4 acres southeast of the Ranchero Interchange.
With several more commercial projects in the works, including a major developer that is planning 7 million square feet of industrial space, the Council was tight-lipped about several new companies that have chosen to plant roots in Hesperia. The city is poised to begin freeway right-of-way work to establish infrastructure for future development.
Several "undisclosed companies" from Adelanto also are planning to move to Hesperia as they "express desire" not to be around marijuana grows, according to Councilman Russ Blewett.
After being elected in November, new Councilmembers Larry Bird and Rebekah Swanson have been getting their political feet wet in city government. Bird and Swanson, who are employees of the Hesperia Unified School District, both have leadership experience, with Bird the principal of Sultana High School and Swanson a former board member with the Hesperia Recreation and Park Board.
But the two freshmen Councilmembers will be busy getting up to speed on future development projects, Tapestry, marijuana ordinances, the possible fire annexation to San Bernardino County Fire and several other items. Both Mayor Paul Russ and Mayor Pro Tem Blewett told the Daily Press the new Council "is strong" despite each member having varying points of views.
After a housing development drought of nearly three years, the city saw a resurgence of homes built after the Council began lowering development impact fees in 2014. The Council said it is encouraged by some 150 building permits that were pulled for infill lots in 2016, with Blewett predicting nearly 200 permits for 2017.
Blewett said property owners are selling their lots, which will eventually equate to new development, with every dollar of construction circulating eight times in the community. He added that 210 homes built will pay $2.2 million toward the cost of the Ranchero Interchange project.
The new year also will see the opening of the Villas 55-plus community, a 96-unit gated community being constructed on about 10 acres just east of Mariposa Road. Each building will consist of 24 units each, with 629-square-foot one-bedroom and 875-square-foot two-bedroom apartments.
TAPESTRY AND FIRE ANNEXATION
Although the Tapestry housing project was approved in January of last year, residents aren't expected to hear much about the 30-year build-out project in the Summit Valley area of southeast Hesperia in 2017, according to Blewett.
After the Council approved Tapestry and its 16,196 units, Terra Verde Group Director of Development John Ohanian told the Daily Press, "It's actually the beginning of a long process before we can start to develop the property."
Before any dirt is moved, the city and Terra Verde must work through several lawsuits. Soon after Tapestry was approved, the Crestline Sanitation District and a coalition of public-interest groups, including the Center for Biological Diversity, the San Bernardino Valley Audubon Society and the Sierra Club, filed lawsuits.
As for the possible annexation of the Hesperia Fire Protection District to county control, the Council agreed that if the city chooses the annexation route, it will come with the understanding that the agreement will come with no parcel tax. Both the county and city believe Hesperia does not have adequate fire service staffing for a city where firefighters responded to 11,577 calls during the fiscal year of 2014-2015, with 81.7 percent medical calls.
Since June 2004, the city has contracted with county fire to provide fire suppression, ambulance and fire prevention services. Both parties agreed on a 10-year contract in 2004. Since the contract expired, the city has been contracting for firefighting services with the department on a one-year basis.
Rene Ray De La Cruz may be reached at 760-951-6227, RDeLa Cruz@VVDailyPress.com or on Twitter @DP_ReneDeLaCruz.