Placing a proposed quarry -- albeit modified -- on a fast track to approval would be devastating to Temecula and surrounding areas, the city manager said Friday.
Granite Construction, which had been defeated by the city and also the Riverside County Planning Commission in its bid to build a quarry on the outskirts of Temecula, has come back with a modified plan.
The original proposed project was reduced once the Riverside County Board of Supervisors in July voted to place surface mines on the list of projects that can bypass the county's planning commission and head straight to the supervisors for consideration -- a process known as fast-tracking.
"The proposed Liberty Quarry project can’t be viewed in the same manner as building a building on a piece of property," City Manager Bob Johnson wrote in a news release.
"This project will forever destroy a mountain, alter the natural environment -- including air quality, to the detriment of our region ... and obliterate the Luiseño Indian Creation Area among many other impacts."
The heavily opposed Liberty Quarry mining project near Temecula would be among those projects using a "fast-track" process.
"Local governments sometimes use the fast-track process as an economic development tool that can reduce steps in the planning process for a project."
Johnson added that the fast-track process limits public review and that such a consequence is intended.
"How can this proposal even be taken seriously in a time when government transparency and confidence in the decision making of elected officials is so important?"
The city manager said the supervisors want to eliminate the county Planning Commission from the process.
"The County Planning Commissioners have familiarity and expertise with development issues and the importance of their role should not be overlooked," Johnson wrote.
"How could a project of such magnitude not be given the standard review by their appointed Planning Commission?"
Granite construction's claim that new jobs will be created by its proposed project is specious, Johnson said.
"Not so. Granite Construction’s economist acknowledged that new quarries do not create new demand for construction material -- Liberty Quarry would instead shift material sales (and their respective jobs) away from existing quarries in the County.
"Even worse, the Liberty Quarry owner/operator, Granite Construction, is a contractor and will not pay sales tax on their material so Liberty Quarry takes tax revenues away from the County."
Currently, some commercial projects can be fast-tracked if they create 40 or more full-time jobs, result in at least $5 million in capital investment or generate at least $12.5 million taxable sales.
Watsonville-based Granite Construction, which is proposing the quarry, has said it would charge 20 cents per ton at the gate, expecting to raise up to $800,000 per year.
Even if it was guaranteed to come back to Temecula Valley, said Johnson, "it doesn’t put even a dent in the $3.6 billion loss to our region if this massive mine is approved."