May 13, 2007

Mitzelfelt wants more options for land

Conservation groups are buying up land in the 1st District

Victor Valley Daily Press
RYAN ORR Staff Writer

SAN BERNARDINO — A policy proposed by Brad Mitzelfelt would give supervisors more sway over conservation groups that are buying county land.

Land conservancies have been acquiring large amounts of private land in San Bernardino County, especially in the 1st District.

"Our county has lost 735,807 acres of tax base and ranches since 2000 to conservancy acquisitions for parks, wilderness in holdings and habitat mitigation," said Mitzelfelt, San Bernardino County 1st District supervisor.

The Riverside Land Conservancy, a non-profit organization, has been buying tax-defaulted properties in the Mojave Preserve. The group can acquire the property before it is sold at auction in what is called "chapter 8 sales."

The process is often used to offer land at below-market price because the organization has to pay only the taxes owed on the property and an administrative fee.

The proposed policy that Mitzelfelt came up with is intended to return such tax-defaulted properties to viable residential and other economic uses, and to maintain the properties on the tax rolls of the county whenever possible to help pay for public services.

"Citizens in this county have a right to enjoy the desert as much as the animals in this county," Mitzelfelt said.

He said that he is optimistic that the other supervisors will support the policy.