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Developer Consultants Appointed To Keep Tabs On County’s Environmental Impact Reports

Each supervisor nominated a resident from his district to serve.

Riverside County supervisors today unanimously approved the appointments of five people to a committee that will review how environmental impact reports are prepared and return with recommendations on what can be done to make the process more transparent.

Each supervisor nominated a resident from his district to serve on the FAIRSCORE committee. The individuals were chosen based on their experience with environmental studies for real estate projects.

Supervisor Kevin Jeffries selected Temecula-based Matthew Fagan, a consultant to developers, to represent the first district; Supervisor John Tavaglione chose Matthew Webb, who heads a civil engineering and planning firm, to represent the second; Supervisor Jeff Stone appointed Larry Markham, a long-time consultant to developers, to represent the third; Chairman John Benoit chose Marvin Roos, who served in City of Palm Springs for more than 20 years -- including 13 years as the director of its Planning Department -- and is now offering consulting services to developers, to represent the fourth; and Supervisor Marion Ashley selected Joel Morse, a principal at an OC-based planning firm, to represent the fifth.

The committee members are expected to meet four or five times over the next several months and will report their findings to the board in 90 days, according to county Transportation and Land Management Agency Director Juan Perez.

Under California state law, an EIR is prepared if there is substantial evidence that a project may have a significant effect on the environment. In cases where it is not clear whether there is substantial evidence that a project may have a significant effect, an EIR is required to be prepared when there is serious public controversy concerning environmental impacts.

The supervisor hit on the idea following a series of public hearings last year concerning the proposed Liberty Quarry, a 414-acre strip mine off of Interstate 15, just inside the Temecula Valley.

The project triggered heated public debate and verbal skirmishes on the board.

The EIR, done to meet state compliance standards spelled out in the California Environmental Quality Act, was the product of a contractor hired directly by Watsonville-based Granite Construction Inc., the owner of the proposed strip mine.

Stone said he hoped FAIRSCORE would allay future concerns about the legitimacy and objectivity of vendors who complete environmental assessments. --City News Service and Toni McAllister contributed to this report.

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