County officials today voted to certify an environmental impact report on a quarry planned near Temecula, and critics said the decision all but reverses a previous vote to reject the plan.
The voted 3-2 in favor of certifying the document that Granite Construction, a Watsonville-based aggregate company, used as a basis for its application to on more than 400 acres just south of Temecula.
Jeff Stone and Bob Buster voted no on certifying the document. John Tavaglione, John Benoit and Marion Ashley voted yes.
When the board rejected the quarry in February, the vote was 3-2 in favor of rejecting. Tavaglione voted no on the quarry, but yes to certifying the document today.
The also rejected the application last year, but the the decision, and the Board of Supervisors in February.
Today's vote was expected to be a technicality to finalize the denial, and the handful of anti-quarry activists at the during the vote were shocked.
"I just never imagined this would happen," said Jerri Arganda, a member of SOS-Hills, an activist group dedicated to stopping the quarry.
Certifying the report means if Granite decides to reapply for a permit, they will not have to make another report, which is a long, expensive process. , according to Karie Reuther, a spokesperson for the company.
The certification means the county accepts the facts presented in the report as reliable. This means critics will be unable to cite problems with the report as their reason for urging the supervisors to reject the project.
"Our whole argument was that (the report) wasn't (reliable)," said Mike Naggar, Mayor Pro-tem for Temecula.
Other officials steeled themselves to launch another campaign of opposition against the plan. "This is a fight to kill. It was before, it still is now," said Mark Macarro, the Pechanga tribal chairman. "This project is a zombie. We thought we killed it... and it's alive again."
Temecula will likely sue the county for its decision, said Peter Thorson, the city's attorney. "We have no choice but to file a lawsuit, but that's just my recommendation," he said.
against the county earlier this year for rejecting the project, and company officials are still weighing their options, Granite spokesperson Reuther said.
"We haven't made any decision at all," she said after the meeting. "(The company's options) should be narrowed down in a couple months."