This fact sheet provides Community ORV Watch’s Position on the proposal to eliminate the staging provision of San Bernardino County Ordinance 3973 and covers the following areas:
- Why We Support Retaining the Staging Portion of Ordinance 3973
- While We Strongly Oppose Eliminating the Staging Provision We Are Open to Dialog
- Community ORV Watch Responses to Arguments Against the Staging Provision
Why We Support Retaining the Staging Portion of Ordinance 3973
The elimination of the staging permit requirement will weaken county ordinance 3973 by removing an important tool for the management of ORV activities on private and public lands. There continues to be conflicts between ORVs and residents in our communities and we need fair and effective laws to protect our private property. Before the ordinance, large stagings of 15, 25, and even 50 vehicles would ride day and night with no oversight resulting in conflicts with neighbors who experienced excessive noise, dust, nuisance and trespass on their private property. These problems still exist, but the situation has improved due to code enforcement’s oversight on staging.
This is an issue of the protection of private property rights and the quality of life in San Bernardino County.
The requirement for a staging permit has prevented problems with stagings. Code enforcement has used the requirement for a permit as a means to contact hundreds of riders and dozens of unpermitted stagings to inform riders of the law and break up groups that are trespassing on CSA roads, private property and public lands off-limits to ORVs. County residents have been able to be the eyes and ears for code enforcement by reporting unpermitted stagings that have been disruptive to their neighborhoods. Both code enforcement and the Sheriff’s department report that the staging portion of the ordinance has improved the situation in the Morongo Basin.
The ordinance was developed thought a stakeholder process in 2006 facilitated by Randy Rogers of county Code Enforcement that included stakeholders from community (COW, Western San Bernardino Homeowners Association) and conservation groups (CWC and Sierra Club) and representatives from the California Off-Road Vehicle Association (CORVA), the Off-Road Business Association (ORBA) and a rider’s group. After four months of negotiations, county Code Enforcement brought the ordinance before the board where it passed unanimously.
Residents fought for the ordinance because they want to protect their private property from ORV trespass that often occurs as a result of stagings. A wide spectrum of constituencies support keeping the ordinance strong including residents, businesses, homeowners associations, all the conservation groups in the Morongo Basin and a former San Bernardino County Sheriff’s captain.
While We Strongly Oppose Eliminating the Staging Provision We Are Open to Dialog
If the supervisors want to change the ordinance, they should convene a group of stakeholders who, along with code enforcement, can recommend changes to the board. In this way we can come to a compromise that will serve both our communities and ORV riders. In 2007, Friends of Giant Rock (FOGR) attempted to repeal the ordinance and the board once again voted in favor of retaining the law. In December 2009, Supervisor Mitzelfelt proposed eliminating the staging portion of the ordinance without consulting with any of the original stakeholder groups. Policy should be based on the needs of our communities and not special interests.
We would agree to some changes to the ordinance including: a reduction or elimination of the permit fee (without removing the requirement for a permit); the definition of staging as 10 vehicles instead of 10 persons gathered to ride (which is how code enforcement currently interprets the ordinance); and, the ability of riders to apply for a permit once a year listing all of the dates of their stagings. These are similar to the recommendations proposed by code enforcement and are the kinds of compromises that are worked out in a stakeholder process.
Community ORV Watch Responses to Issues Raised Against the Staging Provision
Issue: Removing the requirement for a staging permit will make no difference.
Response: We know from reports by county residents, code enforcement personnel, Sheriff’s department and BLM rangers that the staging portion of the ordinance has worked to deter large, unmanaged gatherings of ORVs. This is the tool law enforcement asked for when the ordinance was passed. Code enforcement has used the permit requirement to approach dozens of unpermitted stagings when riders are engaging in illegal activity such as trespass on private property. The change would make a BIG DIFFERENCE and that is why so many people, groups and law enforcement are opposed to it.
Issue: Only ten groups have filed for permits.
Response: That’s because people do not want to spend $155 for a weekend of ORV recreation. We propose reducing the fee, but not eliminating the permit. Filing for a permit allows code enforcement to keep track of the stagings and monitor them. The fact that permitees expect to be monitored improves their behavior. Very importantly — the permit process provides neighbors with advance notice and the chance to challenge the permit with evidence of past behavior by a particular group.
Issue: The permit requirement has “disrupted Grandma’s birthday party”.
Response: This argument has absolutely no merit. Ask Mike Romage of Code Enforcement if his officers have ever broken up Grandma’s birthday or any similar type of gathering of people who are not there to ride. It may sound dramatic, but it just isn’t true.
Issue: People should not have to get a permit to recreate on their own land.
Response: People need to get a permit for activities that will impact their neighbors — bonfires, large and noisy parties or large gatherings, etc. This is how counties protect their residents from nuisance and disturbance. Residents have the right, and the county has an obligation, to protect their private property from trespass and their neighborhoods from the impacts of large groups of ORVs. Even ten ORVs make a big impact on the neighbors – noise, dust and nuisance. Many of the large stagings consist of people who come from outside of our communities and do not have to pay for the extra costs of law enforcement and damage to roads, berms and flood control.
Issue: The nuisance portion of the ordinance can take care of stagings.
Response: NOT TRUE. The nuisance portion of the ordinance puts the burden of proof on residents experiencing difficulties with stagings and has resulted in conflicts between neighbors over documentation. Some riders have sought restraining orders against neighbors who attempt to document trespass and nuisance. Code enforcement does not work evenings and cannot be everywhere at all times. If residents leave home for the holidays, no one will be there to report trespass often resulting from a large staging, and the nuisance portion does not cover damage to remote public lands.
Issue: Higher fines and stiffer penalties will adequately deter bad behavior at large stagings.
Response: Removing the staging element of 3973 replaces an effective deterrent. It is cheaper and more efficient to prevent problems than to have to respond to them. Major stagings frequently coincide with holiday periods when law enforcement resources are already stretched thin. Higher fines and penalties are a good idea and may serve as a deterrent as well, but it can be very difficult to catch riders to issue them a citation.
Issue: The staging element of 3973 is not enforceable.
Response: This is not our experience on the ground or the opinion of code enforcement, the Sheriff’s department, public lands managers or county residents. We know of many examples of large, disruptive stagings that have been disbursed by code enforcement and the riders directed to Johnson Valley. When stagings are permitted, code enforcement has a list of the staging events and monitors them. When they observe a large staging or get a report of one, they can consult the list and determine if it has been permitted. County residents can call in a large, disruptive staging and code enforcement can investigate. When riders trespass on private property, investigating Sheriffs can approach the riders where they gather.