The Riverside County Board of Supervisors last week approved a project proposal for what has been described as an “eco-conscious private guest wellness ranch” near Lake Hemet.

The project, currently named The Ridge Guest Ranch, will have four guest cabins, with a total of 30 rooms, and six glamping tents. Other facilities on the campus will include a common area with a kitchen and dining room, a sound bath building, a wellness sanctuary center with rooms for specialized therapies and treatments and an administrative and storage building. 

“Recreational activities include both active and passive uses such as swimming, kayaking, paddleboarding, hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding and rock climbing,” Kathleen Mitchell, county planner, said. “The buildings comprise 10% of the total lot, leaving 30 acres of the natural terrain and the native vegetation undisturbed.”

In an effort to maintain the area’s natural state, Mitchell said the new construction will be visually compatible with the existing vegetation and topography due to its use of single-story structures and earth tone exteriors. The development will also use green building materials, solar power and water conservation techniques to further limit its impact on the environment.

“This is a very unique project that will result in a total capital investment of approximately $25 million in site and building improvements,” Larry Markham, a representative for the project, said. “[The project] will result in 35 new long-term jobs and substantial ad valorem tax increases on the property and also substantial transient occupancy tax generated as the project matures to full occupancy.”

Markham said the owner, Caroline LeGrand, had already invested $3.6 million in the property for land acquisition, design and entitlement costs over the last three and a half years since the project, located northeast of Highway 74 and south of Apple Canyon Road, was first submitted to the county.

Mitchell said the planning department received one comment in opposition to the project over concerns about noticing requirements for the project as well as traffic both coming and going from the site.

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“Staff responded to these concerns by providing the noticing requirements and how they were met for this hearing as well as by providing the traffic study and environmental analysis conducted for the project,” she said.

According to Mitchell, those studies showed that traffic during both construction and operation would either have a less than significant impact or would be mitigated by adherence to mitigation measures.

Supervisor V. Manuel Perez, whose district includes the area, said that while he appreciated the number of long-term jobs that would be created and the revenue it could generate for the county, he wished that there had been discussions about some sort of additional benefit for the surrounding community before it came to the board for final approval.

“I’m open to any ideas, and quite frankly, I would ask the owner and folks working with the owner to consider, to think about, what potentially can be done,” he said.

Supervisor Kevin Jeffries, while agreeing with Perez about the desire to see a community benefit for this project, said that requests like this are why the supervisors and their offices should be involved in the initial planning stages for proposed developments.

“This one, unfortunately, got caught in the transition of boundaries, which makes it tough on everybody — staff, the applicant, the board — as these boundaries move, but trying to do these changes at the last minute, which inevitably happens on some big projects, is not fair to us,” he said. “It is not fair to the applicant, if we can avoid it.”

Jeffries said that reinvestment could be something as simple as providing or enhancing public trails or assisting the forest service by helping to fund certain projects in the area.

Nancy Leaman, a representative for the project, said the plan is to have a program for schoolchildren to come to the site to learn about composting so they can take that skill back into their communities to help reduce waste and to continue to engage in the community by bringing in local experts, such as beekeepers, to help achieve the business’ goals.

“Caroline is more than open to this,” she said. “This is very much a passion project for her.”

A full recording of the meeting can be found here on the county’s website.

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