Water district pays $32M for land once slated for nearly 3,600 homes

San Bernardino agency high bidder in public auction for 1,650 acres after resi planned scuttled by environmental review

Los Angeles /
Apr.April 25, 2022 03:03 PM
Newport and Emerald Avenues (Jennifer Iyer, Redlands Daily Facts/SCNG)
Newport and Emerald Avenues (Jennifer Iyer, Redlands Daily Facts/SCNG)

An Inland Empire water district has paid $32.5 million for 1,650 acres of land in north Highland once slated for a 3,600-home housing project that failed to pass an environmental review.

The San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District bought the 1,650-acre property east of I-210 and north of Highway 38 in a 2021 public auction that closed in February, the San Bernardino Sun reported. The seller was the Orange County Flood Control District.

In 2018, a judge ruled that Lewis Group of Companies, the Upland-based developer whose 3,600-home Harmony development had been approved for the site, had filed an insufficient environmental review. The development had been the subject of two environmental and community lawsuits in 2016.

The undeveloped land on the edge of the San Bernardino National Forest, the Santa Ana River and Mill Creek, was once excavated for material to build the nearby Seven Oaks Dam.

“Being able to buy the land at auction, for about 10-15 percent of the cost per acre compared to what we previously had to spend on land for the same purposes, offered tremendous value to the District,” district CEO and General Manager Heather Dyer said.

Dyer said the property would be used to accommodate future water infrastructure needs, including water storage and movement of water supplies throughout the San Bernardino and Yucaipa valleys. It would also provide mitigation land for a regional Habitat Conservation Plan, which will allow 11 agencies to construct more than 100 local water projects.

The district is also considering an educational component to focus on the watershed, sustainability, wildfire resilience and more.

In January, Randall Lewis, executive vice president for the Lewis Group, gave $10 million to the Urban Land Institute’s Center for Sustainabilityin Washington, D.C., to study sustainable real estate development.

[San Bernardino Sun] – Dana Bartholomew





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