By Douglas W. Motley
Lake Arrowhead-based Church of the Woods will be going before the San Bernardino County Planning Commission on Thursday, Jan. 23 in an effort to gain final approval for its Sonrise in the Woods project in Rimforest.
The church’s plans call for construction of a 27-acre church complex on forested land owned by the church alongside Highway 18, just east of Rimforest. An examination of the county’s Draft Revised Environmental Impact Report reveals that an environmental review process for the proposed project began in 2003, with a project that would have included an on-site school campus. In May 2004, the church submitted a smaller project design that would remove the proposed on-site school. The Planning Commission in April 2010 prepared and circulated for review and comments a Draft Environmental Impact Report.
During the review period, which ended in June of 2010, the county received numerous comments opposing the project. Subsequently, the county took no further action on the project. According to Project Manager Pat Hopkins, the church, at that time, withdrew its application for the proposed project.
Citing both quality-of-life and environmental concerns, the project’s detractors have complained of potential harm to endangered wildlife species such as the California spotted owl, yellow-legged frog, southern rubber boa and San Bernardino flying squirrel. Concern has also been expressed about potential increased noise levels near a residential area, increased highway traffic from some 600 parishioners attending each of two worship services on Sundays and Wednesdays, weekly Bible studies, daily social gatherings, and daycare and recreational activities, including sports practices and sporting events.
In addition, according to the 2019 Draft Environmental Impact Report, Highway 18 in the vicinity of the development’s entrance would be widened to accommodate additional traffic flow. Also required would be the installation of as many as eight traffic signals.
Sonrise in the Woods Project Manager Pat Hopkins told The Alpine Mountaineer Monday that 10 acres of what was originally a 38-acre parcel has been sold to the San Bernardino County Flood Control District. The acreage now owned by the flood control district includes the riparian stream, which will be diverted to a retention basin.
“The church no longer owns the stream bed,” Hopkins said. “This is a huge bonus to Rimforest to solve its flood control issues.
“This will be a great asset to the mountain communities.,” Hopkins continued. “The project includes a combination baseball and soccer field, which can be used by local youth sports leagues. Our gym will provide many activities for kids on the mountain, for free.”
The Sierra Club held a public meeting to discuss the Sonrise in the Woods project on Jan. 13. Another meeting, hosted by citizens opposed to the project, will be held at the Twin Peaks Community Center on Sunday, Jan. 19.
Church of the Woods officials are reportedly requesting its members to attend the Jan. 23 Planning Commission hearing to lend their support to the proposed project. The hearing, slated for 9 a.m. in the Board of Supervisors chamber at 385 N. Arrowhead Avenue in San Bernardino, will provide an opportunity for the public to comment on the project. A live feed of the 9 a.m. hearing will be available for viewing at the Twin Peaks Sheriff’s Station.