November 24, 2008

Pioneertown zone may go commercial

By Stacy Moore
Hi-Desert Star

Riders reenact a Pony Express mail delivery in Pioneertown every year to lead up to Grubstake Days.

PIONEERTOWN — The county government is moving to change this community’s downtown zoning from residential to commercial to allow more businesses to locate in this former Western-movie backdrop.

Dave Dawson, a senior planner with San Bernardino County’s Land Use Services Department, said county staff is working on the process to change the land designation from special development residential to special development commercial.

It will affect 30 acres bounded by Rawhide Road on the north, Curtis Road on the east, Tom Mix Road on the west and Pioneertown Road on the south.

The zoning change would have to be approved by the planning commission in a meeting that probably won’t happen until February 2009 or later, Dawson said.

The zoning change was requested last year while the county was updating its General Plan, he said.

“If there’s ever to be a viable economic entity again out there, we have to have some commercial designation,” Dawson declared.

The rezoning is not being considered for a specific business, said Dawson, who emphasized, “There is no project on the board at this time.”

Construction of single-family houses would not be allowed in the new zone; the only type of housing allowed would be multi-family or a combination of home and business. Dawson offered an example of a dentist who kept an office in the front of his building and lived in back.

Existing single-family homes would be allowed to stand if the zoning changes, he said, as long as the buildings were properly permitted.

Dawson expressed hope that new businesses would help Pioneertown in the long run.

“Eventually, the town will hopefully come around with more economic vitality,” he said.

According to Dawson, businesses applying for permits would have to take into consideration the community’s Old West architecture and nature.

Pioneertown resident Guy Hann, whose house on Mane Street would fall inside the new zone, drafted a petition asking people to oppose the project.

“I have a problem with some of the types of businesses that they would allow,” Hann said when reached at his office Friday afternoon. “The types of businesses they would allow under special permitting are just ridiculous. There are alcoholics’ halfway houses and homeless shelters and those sorts of things, which wouldn’t be copacetic with the character of Pioneertown at all.”

Hann also pointed out new horse stables and livestock corrals would not be allowed in the commercial zone. “That’s what this little community is about,” he declared.

Dawson said existing horseback riding facilities and homes with corrals would be allowed to remain in the new zone.

Hann’s main fear is how much he doesn’t know about the plan. “Their agenda is unknown,” he said. “They’re not willing to disclose who has requested this revision or who initiated it. It’s their contention it’s just the County of San Bernardino that initiated it.”

“I’m scared of the unknown,” he concluded. “I just don’t know what kind of repercussions this would have on my home.”

Public hearings before the planning commission and board of supervisors will be scheduled at a later date.