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Temecula Winery's Kitchen, Tasting Room Destroyed …

Fast-Track Process Approved: Temecula Could Become A Pit, Official Warns

Tuesday the Riverside County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 to tentatively approve fast-tracking of projects, including mining.

Following four hours of impassioned testimony and debate, a divided Riverside County Board of Supervisors today tentatively approved a plan to allow mining projects -- including one vigorously opposed by residents of the Temecula Valley -- to receive expedited scrutiny using a "fast-track" approval process.

"Don't put our beautiful landscape on the fast-track to becoming a pit," said Temecula Mayor Chuck Washington, one of more than three dozen people who addressed the board about the Liberty Quarry. "Why would you want to destroy the county's (southern) entrance?"

Washington and other quarry opponents easily outnumbered speakers in support of the strip mine, which, though not on the agenda, became the predominant subject as it pertains to fast-tracking.

Board Chairman John Tavaglione, along with Supervisors Marion Ashley and John Benoit, voted in July to draft an ordinance that would qualify surface mining and reclamation projects for fast-track reviews. The same trio voted today to introduce the proposed ordinance, which is set to be formally adopted in the next few weeks.

Supervisors Jeff Stone and Bob Buster cast dissenting votes.

By Benoit's own admission, fast-tracking has a "direct relationship" to the Liberty Quarry.

"I have never wavered in my feeling since the end of the public hearings on that project that (it has) countywide benefits," Benoit said today.

The board voted down that proposed 414-acre mining operation at Rainbow Canyon Road and Interstate 15 in February. However, three months later, the swing voter against the project, Tavaglione, sided with Ashley and Benoit in certifying an environmental impact report that concluded many of the mine's negatives could be mitigated.

the county left open the door for Watsonville-based Granite Construction to return with a modified plan for mining the site, and the company did just that, proposing a scaled-down version of its original quarry.

Granite asked the Department of Planning to consider fast-tracking its application for permits. However, county ordinances currently do not allow for expedited vetting of proposed mines.

At the same time as Granite's announcement, Benoit introduced a proposal to revise county regulations so that mines, too, can receive fast-track approval, meaning a project could be out of the review stage and voted on by the board in 90 days.

Opponents of Liberty Quarry believe the pit would produce health-damaging levels of silica dust, mar area aesthetics, ruin rural peace, add to road congestion and permanently alter landscapes that the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians consider sacred.

Stone, whose district includes Temecula, urged the board to consider adding an amendment to the fast-track policy specifying that any project proposed for expedited review originate with the supervisor in whose district the project will be located.

Only Buster supported the motion.

Stone said he found it difficult to believe three of his four board colleagues were willing to ignore his constituents and place mining interests above those of residents.

"I feel I've been a good partner to each member of this board," the supervisor said. "I had a great working relationship with the late Supervisor Roy Wilson (Benoit's predecessor). I don't believe Roy Wilson would be trying to force his will on my constituents. Supervisor Benoit, whom I respect, has left me extremely disappointed and created the most divisive issue this board has seen."

Stone compared digging a quarry on the Temecula gateway to putting a strip mine in the hills fronting La Quinta.

"The people would be outraged with something like that scarring their landscape," he said.

Stone called the repeated references to the 100 or so jobs that might be created at the Liberty Quarry a "smoke-and-mirrors" pretext to make the project more appealing.

Members of several nationally affiliated trade unions voiced strong support for the quarry, and fast-tracking in general, for the sake of getting unemployed construction workers back on the job.

"This is the worst time in the history of the labor movement going back to the Great Depression," said union organizer John Smith. "Men are losing their homes, their health care. Some of our members have been out of work for five years. This country is weakened when people are not working."

Benoit called the day's proceedings "difficult" but reiterated his belief that the Temecula Valley mine would offer more advantages than disadvantages. He particularly liked the idea of trucks hauling construction- grade aggregate -- asphalt and gravel -- nearer to their project sites in southwest Riverside County and San Diego County.

"Aggregate would be transported a shorter distance," Benoit said. "If you have to transport it twice as far, the costs go up, there are more gravel trucks on the road and air quality is reduced."

Stone accused Benoit of acting to provide his "friends at Granite Construction with a 'get out of jail free' card" by keeping the Liberty Quarry project alive. Benoit, a former state legislator, has acknowledged receiving "modest" campaign contributions from the company.

At one point, Stone pleaded with Supervisor Marion Ashley to oppose the fast-tracking proposal, reminding him of the many times he had backed his colleague's initiatives in the fifth district.

"I've always been collegiate with the board," Stone said. "But all that goes down the drain unless we can show that we are fair."

Ashley replied that no supervisor should treat his district as if it were a "kingdom" and the supervisor is a "king."

Tavaglione, who is running for a congressional seat, said he would support implementing fast-track authorizations for "every damn project" possible, completely bypassing the planning commission, to bring down the county's 13 percent unemployment rate.

Louison Bobet September 26, 2012 at 02:47 PM
I hope Temecula uses their considerable clout and brings a mamoth lawsuit against the county. Thanks for screwing us Riverside!
Dave September 26, 2012 at 02:50 PM
If the quarry is approved, Temecula will have officially reached a tipping point. The once vibrant jewel of Riverside County will begin a rapid descent into IE mediocrity where communities are defined by gambling, fast food, or big box shopping. Those with money will move to San Diego or Orange County leaving declining property values in their wake. Burned out lawns will be the first sign quickly followed by more crime and declining school test scores. Next comes more environmentally toxic industries because poor uneducated folks don't have any advocates to protect them. On a positive note, 24 guys from Hemet will have jobs transporting rock to communities that value their health more than we do.
TVOR September 26, 2012 at 02:54 PM
Paul, are you just stubborn or hard of hearing? The city council invited you to provide any information they could use to request a criminal investigation. You who have been beating the drum of "start a criminal investigation" should have some evidence which could be used for such an investigation right? Where is it?
jill September 26, 2012 at 03:12 PM
Dave hits the nail on the head. Such short sighted thinking here in Riverside.
V.W.D.S. September 26, 2012 at 03:23 PM
I'd like folks to consider Prop 31 on the Nov. ballot and how they feel about their city's future in the hands of the county - read this: http://www.nbcsandiego.com/blogs/prop-zero/Local-Government-California-Forward-Action-Plan-Ballot-Initiative-Proposition-166612956.html More legislation to take the power out of the hands of the people and into the hands of those that lobby the most. Getting a taste of it right now .
BST September 26, 2012 at 04:30 PM
sounds like someone has been given some perks or "something" to "fast trak" this. John Tavaglione, needs to be investigated for sure! And surface mining and blasting...has temecula been declared a war zone???
BST September 26, 2012 at 04:31 PM
Agreed!! John Tavaglione, needs to be investigated...what is he getting by "flipping" his vote and behind this PUSH for fast traking...
BST September 26, 2012 at 04:33 PM
No one in political office care what the people they are "serving" want. They do what lines their pockets with money and perks. someone is getting something for this and, it's not in their backyard so they really don't care!!!
BST September 26, 2012 at 04:39 PM
You are 100% right!! It's what benefits them period!!!! I am sick of being behind dirt haulers etc on Rancho California now, they use that road to get to Hemet or Riverside...so that will increase even more with the hauling of rock,etc .....home values go down...who wants to move into an area where blasting goes on, and those awesome hills will soon be gone and look like the ugly masses of dirt that can now be seen in Corona. OH...and in Corona...there are no homes etc backed up to it!!!
S Smith September 26, 2012 at 05:34 PM
I recently moved to Temecula and I have a View of the Mts that would be forever destroyed. I Think that anyone who lives here and appreciates the beauty should be outraged! 100 local Jobs , Thats laughable! Every person who stood up for the pit lives outside of Temecula. some live in Santa Ana. When the majority of the Town says NO, It Means NO. As to the Native Americans of our area, They need to get VERY Vocal! Once the land is Raped for profit it will never be repairable. This town is no longer some sleepy little village, we are a destination known for the landscape, the wine and the history. Anyone who doesnt think that Nature and its beauty isnt sacred and to be respected, is just arrogant and blind!
S Smith September 26, 2012 at 06:00 PM
So True! I didnt move here for the Mining! What would happen if the entire town showed up and demanded answers? Not just a handful in Riverside? The meetings need to be held IN TEMECULA. Fill the city hall and Front street with folks! Fill one of the Local Highschool football feilds! I may be new to Temecula, But I Love the area and I cant believe that the residents are being ignored by a handful of on the take officials! I just contacted NBC news, I think if we all contact the major news stations from San Diego to Los Angeles, and we are VERY vocal , we may get some help! Something is seriously wrong with the way this project is being handled! You'd have to be blind to not see it!!
Scott September 26, 2012 at 06:41 PM
I get a kick out of the argument that the quarry will lead to less trucks on the road. Are there less bees near a bee hive?
S Smith September 26, 2012 at 07:04 PM
Dave, Maybe Temecula needs to remove itself from the idiots in Riverside that think Temecula is some hick town. Have they driven around to see the beauty of the area, are they jealous that folks here give a Damn about the quality of their neighborhoods and schools? I just moved here in the spring, and I already have a deep regard for my neighbors and the businesses. Frankly you are correct, If they would have told me about the Quarry, I probably would have passed on buying my dream home here! I can see these hills from my property! Why are these meetings being held in Riverside, Why not fill the seats here in Temecula , and why cant the residents vote on this???
May Martin September 26, 2012 at 07:18 PM
So, "Republican", just where do YOU live???? This isn't about the Pechangas, it's about our home, our community and our quality of life. As a Temecula resident for 41 years and a proud American I am very concerned about the apparent lack of concern for the will of the people and certain corrupt polital officials who are out for their GREATER FINANCIAL GOOD not ours.
Paul Jacobs September 26, 2012 at 07:27 PM
TVOR and michael, All that is needed to request a criminal investigation is reasonable suspicion. As I explained to the City Council http://sire.cityoftemecula.org/SIREpub/mtgviewer.aspx?meetid=400&doctype=AGENDA (Go to minute 35 and then to 1:02), if I see a stranger checking the doors and windows of the house across the street, I don't need proof or evidence that a crime is taking place. I call the police and report the suspicious activity and an officer investigates whether a crime is taking place or if somebody just locked themselves out of the house. If anybody else doesn't see the maneuvers at the County level to get Liberty Quarry approved after is was soundly vetted and defeated through the public hearing process as suspicious, then start preparing the welcome party for Liberty Quarry. An investigation is needed to answer the question I posed to the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday during the fast-track item: "How is it that Granite Construction gets considerations from the County that company representatives never asked for publicly?" The sitting council refuses to pursue the criminal investigation Councilman Ron Roberts suggested on 7/13/10.
Paul Jacobs September 26, 2012 at 07:31 PM
Stopping Liberty Quarry is more important for our community. I didn't just get on this bandwagon to get elected. See above comment at 12:27.
S Smith September 26, 2012 at 07:40 PM
Steve, If you are so concerned about jobs in the area, you would know that far more folks are employeed in and around Wine Country Temecula than this idiotic pit would ever employee, Without giving away too much info, I am involved with a property that will soon be a destination wedding and event location off of De Portola, It will bring far more good paying jobs to the area than the Pit ever will, It will not cause harm to health and the scenery, but if our backer hears of this fast track and the pit approval, he may bail on the idea, who wants to hear blasts and breath the results of this? This is a bad idea, that will halt progress on wonderful new venues that will give our kids part time work and many adults full time decent paying positions! It will seriously hurt the Wineries and tourism, Face it Temecula makes a BIG living off of our visitors ! Imagine folks by passing Front street to avoid the big hauling trucks!! How many jobs will that cost?
Popeye September 26, 2012 at 07:41 PM
Tea Baggers like Repubatard can not afford Temecula. Same goes with dirt picker Steve Newman. They couldn't get jobs at McDonalds.
Popeye September 26, 2012 at 07:48 PM
Same old arguments that has been going on since 2005. This project will never happen and has denied many times. Same retards spoke then and are speaking now for this project that will never happen. Same goes with RomneyDontCareAboutAmerica. Out of touch with the real world, promotes racism and are always wrong!
Robyn September 27, 2012 at 03:42 AM
Our beautiful entrance into Temecula is going to be destroyed! It very well can destroy our community! What more can we do? Obviously our voices mean nothing.
Cheri September 27, 2012 at 06:37 AM
If this land is sacred to the Pechanga Indians, and they are against it...which I know they are...I believe they have more power than Liberty Quarry. Don't they have eminent domain?...especially if it is held to be sacred to them? These three Riverside supervisors are seemingly accepting bribes, which I thought was against our so called laws-I believe this is just the beginning of another round and they definitely will go through many more...Why don't they just find a more suitable spot, and make their own roads to get there. These supervisors really do need to be investigated, and we should have 3 different environmental reports-with 3 independent entities studying them. Newton's 3rd law will definitely will come into play here if the monstrosity ever even goes through...big boulders landing on cars on freeways, earthquakes, not just health and air issues...we will need 2 more new hospitals. Well you all get the point. I agree we should have weekly meetings in front of our new city hall, isn't it what its there for? Cheri from Temecula PS: It won't look look the Emerald City in Springtime anymore!
V.W.D.S. September 27, 2012 at 02:17 PM
Exactly - no matter how anyone feels about the quarry - this 'fast tracking' of mines is crooked back door politics - they have shown their true colors and are not interested in representing the people - they should not be elected to anything.
Katheryn September 27, 2012 at 02:47 PM
A good friend sent this email and said the following: "Do you think this is what happens when a mining operator/Developer seems to be in control of your elected politicians and the appointed officials these same politicians put in positions of authority. Do you think government employees have to follow the instructions of these same politicians in order to keep their government jobs? Do you wonder if someone would be fired if they didn't do what the politicians wanted them to do?" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5m_HypxyudI&feature=relmfu Have you seen the MaryAnn Edwards video featuring the Aberhill Ranch Boys and Girls Club with Castle & Cookes aggregate mining operation in the background it's across the street. Paul Jacobs may be onto something? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bhckrqXX-L4 Another video of the Alberhill Ranch Boys and Girls Club which puts things in prospective: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e12kTmWvn7U&feature=related
Fade67 September 27, 2012 at 05:50 PM
I'm absolutley livid! I have two young daughters and, aside from the obvious environmental devastation, the fact that silica dust will be blowing through our house for the next 50 years is appalling. Where is the concern for health? How is it possible that giving jobs to 20-40 truckers outweighs the FACT that silica dust will kill. Tavliogne, Benoit, Edwards...where do you live? Do you have young children living in the airflow of this quarry? I hate you for what you're doing to our community without any regard whatsoever for the well being of the Temecula citizens. Shame on you.
Fade67 September 27, 2012 at 05:51 PM
In addition, I am anxious to hear what we, as citizens of Temecula, can do to prevent this? Whatever it takes, I'm ready.
Nancy September 27, 2012 at 10:39 PM
Welcome to City of Temecula which means "Where the sun breaks through the mist". Yes, that mist is a carcinogenic dust like particles that will make all the schools along the Santiago Roads & along Temecula Parkway into asthma, allergy & oncologists doctors dream corridor. Great Oak or Great "Choke" Highschool, Hope Lutheran (hope you get that lung transplant). How about the awards & points that the Temecula wineries will gain by the additional air quality additives? I'm with Fade67 - it's not just a Temecula resident issue. It's Murrieta, Lake Elsinore, Fallbrook and the entire Valley that will be affected for decades. By the way, a thrift store named "Savers" just opened up in Murrieta & they employ 55 new people from the Temecula Valley area. So to say that the quarry will add jobs to the area as a reason to support this project is moronic. The quarry will negatively affect our health, environment, community & housing value.
Fade67 September 27, 2012 at 11:19 PM
Silica Dust Exposure Silica dust is created when sandstone, granite, and other silica-containing materials are mined, drilled, or cut. These actions can release fine particles of silica dust into the air. When the silica dust particles are inhaled, they can become lodged in the lungs, spurring the growth of breathing-inhibiting nodules. Even short-term exposure-as little as a few weeks-can trigger silicosis or other serious health risks. Health Risks Anyone who works around the dust released from silica – especially miners, sandblasters, and concrete laborers – is at elevated risk for exposure and related silica dust health risks. Exposure to silica dust may initially cause eye, nose, and throat irritation and shortness of breath. Over time, prolonged exposure can lead to lung damage and silicosis. Individuals who develop silicosis are also at an increased risk for developing lung cancer.
KB September 28, 2012 at 05:07 AM
I said round one because Granite is thinking long term; we'd better be ready for a very long fight that could stretch over decades.
Jeff Burleson September 29, 2012 at 02:37 PM
Hard to believe they would take such a short-sighted view and approve the mining project which may bring less than a hundred jobs to Temecula while jeopardizing thousands of other jobs in the tourism and service sector. It doesn't seem wise to burden the entire community with such a corrosive blemish (which will be permanently visible) while the wineries in the area are beginning to draw such critical acclaim the world over. This is akin to taking off in an airplane, and at the very moment you rotate off the runway, you retract the landing gear and then throttling the engines back to idle. And you know what happens next - you CRASH. The Riverside County Board of Supervisors is looking to destroy one of the few nice communities it has. Bluntly, the only reason Temecula even HAS ANY ECONOMIC POWER whatsoever is because of so many of you can't afford to live in San Diego but work there and commute. Well, as far as I am concerned, maybe you should petition to be annexed into San Diego County. It would instantly drive up your property values AND we at least have a County Board of Supervisors who would protect our long term interests. It may be well worth discussing if this is how Riverside County is going to treat you anyway. This wouldn't be happening in San Diego County. Its not out of the realm of possibility for an annexation to take place.
Lindy September 29, 2012 at 06:06 PM
I was born and raised in San Diego and I have land there now. The problem is this company doesn't want to have the quarry in Lakeside or somewhere else because Riverside County is less expensive for them among other issues. It isn't Riverside that is treating us bad, it is only a few... the almighty dollar will pay anyone off no matter where they are..And, who wants to annex with San Diego? And Temecula does have economic power... many hospitals are here, schools, attys, etc... You aren't keeping us in Temecula.. yes, some commute because the housing in San Diego got falsely inflated and bet your homes aren't worth what they were. I have 3 homes there and I CHOOSE to live up here away from traffic, pollution, too many idiot people who aren't from there but have ruined the city.. so don't go telling us anything... AND YES IT WOULD AND HAS HAPPENED IN S.D.... I KNOW, I AM FROM THERE AND I AM OVER 60 yrs old.. seen it with my own eyes... how do you think SD got so expensive in the first place....You are talking to a TRUE native... get lost bud....

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