Thomas Stickley Pulls Scam
On Lackadaisical County Officials
Rezoning/CUP application loaded with misrepresentations.
Application represented by Inland West Development / Spike Lynch.

      Renegade ex-tow operator, Thomas Stickley, claims another tow operation as his own in a filing with the county's Land Use Services Department.  The county's Planning Commission approved the application 4-0 despite knowing of the corrupt misrepresentations in the application.  First District's Supervisor Robert Lovingood's appointed Planning Commissioner Randolph Coleman, who represents Newberry Springs on the Commission, was absent.  The application now goes to the county's Board of Supervisors for final approval; tentatively scheduled June 3, 2014.

Posted: April 2, 2014

Past illegal tow yard is expected to expand with county's assistance.
County continues to violate CEQA requirements in its processing.

Story Capsule
      Thomas A. Stickley, a former acting chief of the Newberry Springs Volunteer Fire Department, has requested a zoning change and a Conditional Use Permit for his Silver Valley Towing service at the intersection of Route 66 and Nopal Lane.
      Everyone in Newberry Springs knows where the famed Bagdad Café is located.  Travel down Historic Route 66 (National Trails Highway) and there it is.  On occasions there will be multiple tourist buses parked outside with throngs of tourists making the desert café the most photographed site in Newberry Springs.

      Immediately across the scenic highway, the marvelous viewscape of the majestic Newberry Mountains is obstructed by a growing towing service.

      For many years, Thomas A. Stickley (right) operated a small towing service upon his property at the intersection of Route 66 and Nopal Lane directly across from the Bagdad Café.  It functioned as a small, family service that aided passenger vehicles on Interstate-40 and the local roadways.

      Stickley's towing service, Silver Valley Towing, operated under the radar of county authorities as the towing site was out-of-compliance with county zoning.  Stickley, under the representation of Spike Lynch, has now engineered an application for rezoning before the county to make towing a legal operation upon Stickley's parcel.  The application also requests a Conditional Use Permit.

      This sounds like a reasonable request until the facts, and the unstated facts, in the application are examined.

      The County Land Use Services Department, in its unprofessional Planning rush to cut corners and ignore doing its full job, has again been short in its funamental benchmark analysis under the California Environmental Quality Act's (CEQA) mandated assessment.  It has also been short of providing some of the mandated legal notices that it is responsible for under CEQA.  The fact is, the county has been so deficient and lethargic in its operation and interpretation of its responsibilities under CEQA that county planners act as though San Bernardino County is not part of California and the state's environmental laws.

      A court recently ruled against the county in a matter of a Dollar Store in Joshua Tree where "The county's mitigated negative declaration of any untoward impacts of the project was insufficient in part because the analysis of the possible economic effects to existing businesses, which could result in urban decay, had not been done previously,"  "...the California Environmental Quality Act called upon the governmental agency overseeing the project to consider the secondary or indirect environmental consequences of economic and social changes."

      With the Stickley application, not only did the county fail to recognize the economic implications of the upcoming National Scenic Byway in Newberry Springs, but as Route 66 is registered as being eligible for historical landmark status, the county failed in its duty to give the additional stakeholders of the application legal notice as required by law. 

      Public opinion is another factor to consider in the process of determining whether a project would have an adverse or beneficial effect on the environment.  The lead agency shall consider the views held by members of the public in all areas affected as expressed in the whole record before the lead agency.  The county denied the views by not mailing mandatory notices of the Project to all of the stakeholders.  Then the Planning Commission ignored shocking revelations about the application during the public hearing on February 20, 2014.

National Scenic Byway eyesore!   An impressible stain upon the scenic view scape.

      CEQA Guidelines § 15064.5 addresses archaeological and historical resources and notes that physical changes (such as Big rigs deteriorating Route 66's roadbed) that would demolish or materially alter in an adverse manner those characteristics that convey the historical significance of the resource and justify its listing on inventories of historical resources are typically considered significant impacts requiring an Environmental Impact Review (EIR).

      In Newberry Springs, there are currently two areas along Route 66 that would favor immediate benefit from Route 66 receiving a National Scenic Byway designation.  The area around Interstate-40 at National Trails Highway, Exit 18 (Kelly's, Deels, The Barn) and the area of the Bagdad Café.  Having a Big rig towing operation inappropriately operating across from the Bagdad Café site would be considered blight and a deterrent to commercial development there.  But then, county planners have shown a lack of care in planning rural High Desert areas such as Newberry Springs.

      In its processing of the Stickley application, the county's Planning Department has released a poor and inadequate boilerplate Findings review that is inconsistent with the facts of the community and good planning.  The conclusions drawn by staff in their Findings are highly contrary to reasonable development in Newberry Springs.  A Big rig towing service and storage yard is better sited at an Interstate on-off ramp and away from public view.  Not 2.1-miles from the nearest Interstate on-off ramp (Fort Cady Road - Exit 23).  The next closest Interstate on-off ramp is 3.1 miles away (National Trails Highway - Exit 18).  Why select a wrecker service and storage location miles down a scenic highway in front of a historical landmark?  A towing yard is unsightly, noisy, and a safety hazard as often over a hundred-plus tourists are outside of the Bagdad Café... with some distracted tourist taking pictures and video while on the roadway.

      Big rig wreckers speeding down Route 66 to emergencies and then hauling back carcasses of other big rigs is not suited for a National Scenic Byway.  In front of Stickley's site is a school bus stop where children often wait for school bus pick-up; and where they wait for their parents after the school bus drops them off.

      For a misrepresented zoning and Conditional Use Permit application to be filed and not red tagged by county staff demonstrates that they are not doing their job to protect the best interests of our community.  For the Planning Commission to be informed at a public hearing of the lies and misrepresentations contained in the application and still approve it is an abomination and complete failure of their duty to the citizens they represent.  For the county Supervisors who appoint and standby their Planning Commissioners, they need to be held accountable.

      The county staff's Environmental Initial Study (EIS) / Negative Declaration has not been prepared in compliance with CEQA as the Project has multiple significant adverse impacts upon the community that the county's EIS ignored or whitewashes; adverse Protentially Significant Impacts that require an Environmental Impact Review analysis and mitigation measures.

      This Project demands an that an EIR be prepared due to the following highlighted needs that have not been properly analyzed nor addressed for parcel number 0528-243-17 (Stickley's corner parcel at Route 66 and Nopal Lane) and other parcels that are a part of the application:

(1) Aesthetic and Visual.

      The project is adjacent and will have a Potentially Significant impact upon the scenic vista of a proposed National Scenic Byway for Route 66 (National Trail Highway) that is currently having a Corridor Management Plan prepared.

      Route 66 was designated a county Scenic Route in May 2012. 

      The site (parcel 0528-243-17) currently involves a heavy rig wrecker service (Active Towing), and a storage operation immediately next to National Trails Highway; with a possible future expansion upon the frontage of National Trails with the addition of rezoned parcel 0528-243-16.  A heavy truck towing and vehicle storage/impound is an assault and an incompatible operation to the surrounding neighborhood zoning; and will cause Significant Economic Impact to the benefit that a prized National Scenic Byway designation would bring to the community of Newberry Springs.

      This proposed Spot Zoning is especially detrimental to future commercial expansion around the historical Bagdad Cafe that is directly across the street.  The Standard State Zoning Enabling Act states "all such regulations shall be uniform for each class or kind of building throughout each district."  The rezoning establishes a new Rural Commercial (CR) land use zoning district by the joining of adjacent parcels.  Courts have often ruled similar Spot Zoning as illegal.

      The purpose of the Aesthetics section in an Environment Initial Study is to identify and evaluate key visual resources in the project area, and to determine the degree of visual impact that would be attributable to a proposed project.  Further, the analysis should identify key visual resources that warrant consideration in subsequent plans, so as to ensure, where possible, that the integrity of the landscape and built environment is maintained.  The county failed to properly document and consider Newberry Springs' key tourist visual resources impacted by the Project in its EIS.

Tow rigs across from the Bagdad Café waiting for carnage on the Interstate.

(2) Hazardous Materials.

      The proposed towing operation represents a Potentially Significant Impact in the towing and storage of trucks, buses, and other vehicles that have been recently severely damaged and leaking hazardous fluids.  Residences and a restaurant are nearby.  Ground water quality is very important to the community and a proper analysis of the leaking hazards that can be brought onto the site by damaged vehicles, trailers, and tankers, need to be addressed for public safety.

(3) Cultural & Historical Resources.

      Historic Route 66 (National Trails Highway) roadway in Newberry Springs is an identified eligible Resource and it is rapidly deteriorating; much of the roadbed consists of asphalt patchwork.  Route 66's pavement in Newberry Springs at best is at Minor Structural Distress with the county's regular bandaid patching.  The roadbed is tipping the level of Major Structural Distress and requiring major rehabilitation or replacement.

      East of Fort Cady road where the county has deferred maintenance on Route 66, the road is not recommended for passenger vehicles.  The towing operation represents a Potentially Significant Impact upon the historic roadbed involving heavy Big rig wreckers hauling other Big rigs, the heavyweights, that threatens an accelerated deterioration of the roadbed of Historic Route 66.  Towing and storage of vehicles are not a compatible development to the site as they significantly impact the community's Cultural Resources.

      The operations are not compatible to the residential community and the upcoming National Scenic Byway that is being planned by the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Department of Transportation, the National Park Service, the State of California, the County of San Bernardino, the community of Newberry Springs, and many other entities.  The Cultural Resources being impacted by this rezoning are Potentially Significant and need to be studied in compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) Guidelines. (CEQA Art. 5 §15064.5)

(4) Geology and Soils.

      An Environmental Impact Review further needs to be done for the site's geology and soils.  As the Land Use Services Department's Planning Commission Staff Report states, two of the parcels have been previously used for towing and storage without proper licenses and oversight for many years.  The previous unregulated use of the site for heavy repairs, maintenance, and storage, is believed to have fostered a Potentially Significant Impact of illegal oil dumping and other violations to have occurred.  The site needs to be investigated and studied for existing contaminated hazards before rezoning and a CUP can be considered.

(5) Noise.

      The community surrounding the site is low density; but principally residential.  The proposed towing operation involves 24/7 emergency services that includes the operation of noisy heavy equipment involving diesel, chains, back-up horns, vibrations, etc., that represents a Potentially Significant Impact upon the community.  As noises travel far at night over the open desert, such a heavy equipment operation is not proper for the site.  Such noisy, late night 24/7 operations, are adverse to the public's health and welfare.

(6) Land Use & Planning.

      Thomas Stickley has previously operated an illegal, out-of- compliance business on his property (parcel 0528-243-17) (17 circled in the illustration) and has now allowed a similar but far larger operation upon his property that operates under a Temporary Use Permit; a TUP that has restrictions that have not been adhered to.

← Click for enlarged illustration.

      Land Use Services is now recommending a correction to the conflict with zoning of not logically removing the illegal operation, but by allowing improper Spot Zoning changes to be made, to benefit a single individual, under a misstated and false application that would allow a later expansion of the footprint of Active Towing's storage and impound area by the addition of rezoned parcels 0528-243-16 and 0528-243-05.  This would allow the current available impound area to easily expand almost 4-times in size at a later date as the property would already be properly zoned Rural Commercial (CR).

      As shown in the accompanied photographs, Active Towing's heavy equipment takes up much of the available parking on parcel 0528-243-17.  Active Towing already has a need to expand its footprint to acquire additional storage.  Impound expansion upon adjacent parcels 0528-243-16 and 0528-243-05 is necessary; and guess what, the parcel will already be rezoned for such as a special district.

      This proposed Spot Zoning is based on poor analysis and poor study of the community's desired future land use.  It represents an illogical and undesirable land use pattern.  It is an outrage to the law and the nearby residents that have invested into homes based upon the existing zoning.  Stickley's towing was a small family operation servicing personal vehicles; the current operator upon this site is Active Towing, a heavy Big rig wrecker service that is not compatible with that site in the community.

(7) Mandatory Findings Of Significance.

      The project is cumulatively considerable and significant in connection with the effects of probable future projects, immediately fronting Historic Route 66, with The Mother Road being designated a National Scenic Byway.  The parcels adjacent the Bagdad Café will become prime for commercial development and expansion of the current busloads of tourists that regularly stop at the Bagdad Café, with people walking the highway to photograph or video the café.  A live or block wall at the towing site blocking the viewshed does little to mask a Big rig eyesore facility.  This project would be a major detriment to future nearby commercial development.  This immediate area is one of only two locations in Newberry Springs ready for important commercial tourist development.

      Route 66 is primed for growth with the incoming National Scenic Byway designation.  A developer is proposing two motels on Route 66; one near Interstate-40's Exit 18 (near Kelly's Chevron) and the other near Exit 23 (Fort Cady Road).  These investments can act as anchors for other investments.

      However, it must be remembered that Route 66 isn't the pavement, it is the spirit of the nostalgic romance and ambiance of the roadway that today attracts travelers longing for the mindset of an earlier generation that traveled the road westward seeking their place and fortune in California.  Newberry Springs still has open space along Route 66 that is reminiscent of what Route 66 looked like three-quarters of a century ago.  This is a valuable resource to the local community that can help improve the economy and it must be protected by sensible zoning.

      CEQA is broad in its reach.  Each and every significant effect on the environment must be disclosed in an Environmental Impact Review and mitigated if feasible (CEQA §§ 15126.2 & 15126.4).  The county's EIS ignored the CEQA elements that are intrinsic to Newberry Springs.

Active Towing's operation is directly across the highway from the historical Bagdad Café.


      In the past, the principle single story structure on parcel 0528-243-17 has served as numerous businesses, some included the Friendly Inn, a hardware store, tire shop, auto repair and maintenance, truck repair and maintenance, and now, heavy towing services and storage.  The applicant, Thomas A. Stickley (Silver Valley Towing) has previously operated an illegal out-of-zoning compliant towing operation there for many years.

      In his application, Stickley is claiming a desire to bring the zoning for his business into compliance.  It is, however, apparently to meet the requirements of a property sale.  Stickley is no longer the owner of Silver Vallley Towing having sold the business to his daughter and her boyfriend in May 2010 (see previous link) who moved it nearly 14-miles away.  Silver Valley Towing has not operated at the rezoning site (0528-243-17) for years having moved to 48066 Yermo Road, Newberry Springs, CA (parcel 0539-251-40).

      In an oral interview by telephone with the Blotter on March 31, 2014, Sleiman Zeinaty, the owner of Active Towing, admitted that he already owns the Thomas Stickley property.  Although the property sale has not been publicly recorded, Zeinaty claims that he holds ownership to it by contract.  Official recording of the sale is apparently on hold contingent upon the passage of the misrepresented rezoning application submitted by Thomas Stickley to rezone the property under his name as proprietor of a ' continuing ' towing service.

      Sleiman Zeinaty stated that Thomas Stickley doesn't have any ownership interest in Active Towing.  So the lies and deceit to San Bernardino County government continues under the Supervisors' noses.  The rezoning application is represented before the county by Inland West Development (Spike Lynch) who apparently takes the county personnel as buffoons whereby lies and deceit works better for acceptance.  So far, the strategy has been a winner!

      Stickley's application involves the rezoning of parcel 0528-243-16 (immediately west of Stickley's parcel) that by county assessor records is owned by Don and Karen Norris.  They are not identified in the application (as of the Planning hearing date) as willing applicants to the zoning change.  The lies and misrepresentations are so strong that it would make sense that Sleiman Zeinaty would also have the western parcel, 0528-243-16, quietly owned by contract also.

      In the staff's report, the applicant's representative claims that Silver Valley Towing has operated at the Nopal Lane site continuously since 1980.  This is false.  Also false is the claim that "the original towing and impound business has thrived since it located on the site decades ago." (Goal D/LU 3 page 10)  Furthermore, statements in the report that "The project site is currently in use as Silver Valley Towing, an impound yard and towing company, with incidental tire repair service" is also intentionally false. (Page 13 of staff's report.)

      These statements all appear false as Silver Valley Towing now appears defunct as telephone listed numbers are no longer in service (760-257-3416, 760-257-3447).  An extensive Internet search has not shown Silver Valley Towing as operational.  A local tire supplier stated that: "The business closed 6 months to a year ago."

Active Towing Needles's operation and storage facility (left) is also an eyestore.

      Active Towing has been operating a Big rig wrecker service at the Stickley site as an Interstate-40 satellite location to Active Towing's main site in Needles, California.  Active Towing also has a satellite location in Essex.

      The Newberry Springs site is replacing a previous Active Towing site in Ludlow.  At this time, there is no longer Silver Valley Towing signage at the site, only Active Towing.

      The move from Ludlow to Newberry Springs may be to acquire a Newberry Springs address for CHP dispatches and to access a highspeed route up Newberry Road and Harvard Road to access lucrative business on Interstate-15 where Active is already drawing Big-rig wrecker business away from Barstow.

      Immediately to the east of parcel 0528-243-17 are parcels 0528-242-03 and 0528-242-09.  These empty, open parcels are regularly used by Active Towing for temporary parking of wrecked tractors and trailers for the open off-loading of damaged trailer cargos, such as spoiling produce.  See additional photographs here.

      As previously stated, the representive for this misleading application is listed as: "Inland West Development (Spike Lynch)."  According to a check of the Secretary of State's records, Inland West Development was suspended on July 7, 1987.  Spike Lynch, who allegedly may have brokered a property transaction, had his California Real Estate license expired on August 23, 1987.  We find no record of Inland West Development being registered with the California Secretary of State nor with the county of San Bernardino as a dba.  Yes, this is the same Spike Lynch who a decade ago wooed Newberry Springs that the weaselly erection of mammoth commercial billboards along Interstate-40 in Newberry Springs and Daggett were legal.

      The Planning Commission's approval of this application has demonstrated the county's corrupt judgment of rewarding past illegal behavior of a towing operation that never should have been established at the parcel 0528-243-17 site.  The Temporary Use Permits (TUP) that have been recently issued, as stated in "Background" of the Planning Commission Staff Report permitted "Dispatch Only" at the subject site.  But that has been repeatedly violated as towed trucks, trailers, automobiles, and even wrecked buses have been temporarily stored at the site for long periods by Active Towing.

      The site is located within the Newberry Community Service District (CSD) and despite earlier assurance from the First District Supervisor that Land Use Services would notice the CSD to actions that impact the CSD's service area, no notice of this application has been made to the CSD, a leading community stakeholder.

      In fact, one nearby property owner within a few hundred feet who certainly should have been mailed a notice of the application, never received one.  This raises the question if there were others?

      This proposed towing and storage site is not compatible nor is it in the best interest of Newberry Springs.  The community's segment of Route 66 has a real opportunity in a couple of years, with the National Scenic Byway designation, to take advantage of economic growth opportunities; but inappropriate and unreasonable Spot Zoning that kills the scenic value and Resources of Newberry Springs will deflate the community's ability to take advantage and prosper.


      The county has been negligent for failing to recognize Historic Route 66 as a Cultural Resource, for ignoring Route 66's Cultural Landscapes, and the Cultural Itinerary that will be Potentially Significantly Impacted by the proposed project's commercial expansion upon the historic and scenic route.

      The lack of professionalism found in the staff's Findings illustrate a lack of understanding of rural High Desert communities and their planning needs; that further fans the call of bisecting the county.

      Noncompliant planning and abuse of discretion has gone into the Environmental Initial Study and the adoption of a Negative Declaration that has been based upon conclusions that are not supported by substantial evidence in the record (Cal. Pub. Resources Code §§ 21168, 21168.5).  The current towing operation at the site of this application should be removed as out of compliance to the established area zoning; the illegal past activity should not be now blessed by unreasonable Spot Zoning and enlarged upon.

      As Newberry Springs is within the county's First District, Supervisor Robert Lovingood holds the key of persuasion on the Board of Supervisors for approval or denial this misrepresented application that county Planning has throughly messed up.

      We welcome Active Towing to the community at an appropriate location.

Planning Commission Staff Report Intro.

NEPA/CEQA Handbook.

San Bernardino County Development Code. 7MB PDF


Click here to read, "Like,"
comment, or share on:
Newberry Springs

Follow us on Twitter and
be notified of new stories:
Newberry Springs Community Alliance
Home page: