Environmentalists say a decision by the Palm Desert City Council is a major defeat for Bighorn Sheep in our local mountains. A luxury home project the city previously rejected will now be allowed.
Jim DeForge with the Bighorn Institute looks at the lambing pens where endangered bighorn sheep are raised. Housing developers have honored a 400 yard buffer zone agreed upon for decades, until now.
Palm Desert City Council recently approved the “Corniche At Bighorn” project. The project would build two luxury homes just 200 yards away from the place where the sheep come to give birth every year.
“Obviously, very disappointed,” explained DeForge. “Because originally, the council talked lovingly about the institute and the sheep. When it came down to money issues, it looks like they voted against it.”
When the city first denied the project in November, the developer’s attorney Patrick Perry responded, “I’ll discuss with my client and we’ll make a determination whether we’ll proceed.”
When pressed if a lawsuit was on the way, Perry answered, “I’m not in a position to say at this point.”
Palm Desert Mayor Bob Speigel said the city reversed their decision because Corniche At Bighorn threatened to sue the city for the value of the land they could no longer develop.
“The city would have been exposed to a multi-million dollar lawsuit. We anticipated when we approved it the first time that other organizations, like the Bureau of Land Management, Fish and Game, and so on would come in and participate with us. But they all walked away. We suggested that Bureau of Land Management, they own so much land, they would transfer some land to the Corniche. But they saId, no, they couldn’t do that,” said Spiegel,
The land couldn’t be traded because the developers said the land they bought for $600,000 years back was now worth $18 million. That leaves the Bighorn Institute wondering if they have the resources to countersue because their efforts to help wild endangered animals may all be in vain.
DeForge added, “When the sheep here lose their fitness because they become situated or habituated to people and such, they will not make it in the wild. At that point, everything shuts down.”