Morro Bay's emergency fund pays for open space



On May 23 the Morro Bay City Council voted to purchase the eucalyptus-covered Cerrito Peak, also known as Eagle Rock, with $350,000 from the city’s general fund emergency reserve.

While some community members questioned whether the purchase constitutes an actual emergency, city Development Director Scot Graham said the city received more positive reinforcement to preserve the open space.

“Ultimately, the city will be looking to sell the property to a private land-preservation nonprofit for permanent open space preservation,” he said.

Generally, the city allocates 27 percent of its general fund budget into the emergency reserve, but Graham said the fund currently holds more than that required percentage.

“The city would be using the extra funds for the purchase,” he said.

The city previously approved plans for the construction of a home on Cerrito Peak in 2011.

A local nonprofit group, Save the Park, filed a lawsuit in 2012 against the city for not properly conducting an environmental review of the project site.

The lawsuit stated that the peak is a scenic landmark, a monarch butterfly habitat, and the site of archaeological remains. In 2015, the judge ruled in the city’s favor but mandated that the site’s owner, Janne Reddell, conduct environmental reviews of the property.

Although the community currently uses the land as an open space, the land belongs to Reddell, who holds the property as part of a land trust after her husband died in 2013.

“I’m not getting any younger and it was supposed to be a house for myself and my husband, but he got ALS and died quickly after,” she said. “The home was never going to happen for us, and the idea of continuing the battle was too much.”

Reddell said she reached out to the city to see if it wanted to purchase the land to keep it open for the public to enjoy.

At the close of escrow, the city will be paid $85,000 as a reimbursement for the legal fees the city paid to defend the lawsuit filed against them back in 2012.

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