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Temecula Slams County's Move To Fast-Track Mining Projects

"Mr. Benoit, like a Sacramento veteran working on behalf of one of your largest campaign contributors, you've led the county to this shameful day," said Temecula City Councilwoman Maryann Edwards.

After a contentious 4 1/2-hour meeting, a divided Riverside County Board of Supervisors today approved a proposal to amend county ordinances to enable expediting reviews of projects -- including the heavily opposed Liberty Quarry mining project near Temecula -- using a "fast-track" process.

Supervisors voted 3-2 to add surface mines to 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.

Supervisors Bob Buster and Jeff Stone were the dissenting votes.

Dozens of people crowded into the County Administrative Center in downtown Riverside for the board's final meeting before summer recess, with many attendees addressing the supervisors about the controversial Liberty Quarry.

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

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

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

At virtually 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.

"This would be designed to allow for certain types of projects that have job-creating potential to have a quicker turnaround time," Benoit said.

Opponents of Liberty Quarry believe the pit mine 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.

"Mr. Benoit, like a Sacramento veteran working on behalf of one of your largest campaign contributors, you've led the county to this shameful day," said Temecula City Councilwoman Maryann Edwards. "(By fast-tracking), you want to sidestep due process and avoid scrutiny. When you make decisions like this, you must think long-term."

Temecula Mayor Chuck Washington reminded the board that the city is suing the county to have the Liberty Quarry EIR invalidated.

"Why would you change your laws to allow impactful mining projects all over Riverside County?" Washington said. "This isn't a minor change; this is a major change. Mr. Benoit, can you imagine considering a proposal to make the entire Tahquitz Canyon a quarry after just a 90-day review? Fast track bypasses a valuable review process carried out by the planning commissioners."

Temecula resident and civic activist Paul Jacobs accused Benoit of setting the stage for a district-versus-district "civil war" by plowing ahead with fast-tracking plans.

Speakers, and even Supervisor Jeff Stone, whose district encompasses Temecula, asked Benoit to respect district boundaries by tabling any plans to further Granite's interests.

Benoit replied that the company had been a "friend" to the Coachella Valley, providing steady jobs and respecting environmental concerns for decades. He denied receiving anything more than "modest" campaign contributions from the company over the last three years.

"There's a lot of emotion here today," the supervisor said. "I'm surprised by some of the hurtful, unsubstantiated attacks impugning my reputation. But people are using emotion instead of facts."

The supervisor reiterated his support for the Liberty Quarry, noting that having a site producing construction-grade aggregate -- asphalt and gravel -- in southwest Riverside County would dramatically reduce the amount of truck traffic countywide and lower the cost of residential and commercial building in the western county region.

Stone retorted that 70 percent of the aggregate would be going to neighboring San Diego County.

"We need to do the right thing and not fast-track this project," the supervisor said. "Let's review it prudently and responsibly so there's not even the appearance of impropriety. I don't want this county to take over the headlines like that other county (San Bernardino) has.

"I promise you that this project will not reduce unemployment by one- thousandth of one percent," Stone added. "This is all smoke and mirrors ... We cannot sacrifice the health and welfare of the citizens of this county."

Tavaglione, again, was the swing vote, saying he supported implementing fast-track authorizations for "every project in the county," if such were possible.

"I'll be damned if I'm going to let this become an election issue," Tavalgione, who is running for a congressional seat, told the crowd of quarry opponents. "There are some of you trying to make it that ... We need to do everything we can to turn this economy around."

According to Granite, the revised quarry project would entail a 45-year operating window, instead of 75 years, as was originally proposed.

More than 60 permanent jobs would be created at the site, with several hundred indirect jobs resulting from the project, according to the company. There would be 160 fewer truck trips to and from the site per day; the total amount of aggregate removed from the mine would be reduced from 235 million to 174 million tons; the mine depth would be 300-feet less; and mining activity would be restricted to daylight hours.

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.

By the end of August, county attorneys are expected to submit proposed amendments for board consideration that provide for fast-track review procedures on mines, reclamation projects and other large-scale enterprises.

Temecula parent August 01, 2012 at 04:02 AM
This makes me sick to my stomach. For the supervisors to completely undermine the wishes of the people, changing ordinances on their whims to promote the profits of a private business entity, is beyond shameful.
Jeff Walters August 01, 2012 at 04:07 AM
Sounds like some butt kicking is in order! Out with the Temecula City Hacks!!!!
Sonny Lambert August 01, 2012 at 04:30 AM
Tavaglione you're an idiot if you think you have a political career after this. Hopefully a jail cell will be In your future! Who are you to think you can decide the fate of our health because you think this Quarry will turn the economy around. You will destroy the best city Riverside has because you got a kick back from Granite Construction. Everything Granite Construction has said is a lie and you know it. I hope you can sleep at night knowing this will all catch up to you soon enough. I urge everyone to send an email to The FBI at (www.fbi.gov/contact-us) asking them to please investigate Tavaglione, Benoit and Granite Construction. It's not hard it will take you two minutes. This is shameful what they are trying to do.
Paul Jacobs August 01, 2012 at 05:05 AM
Bad boy Benoit doesn't want Riverside County's wine country to be a tourist destination. People will avoid the County's award-winning wine country when they see gravel trucks chugging up and down the hill at Rainbow Canyon. Riverside County is a place for warehouses and gravel pits thanks to Benoit, Ashley and Tavaglione. Voters, remember that it was your experienced City Council that stupidly trusted the County process as they gave up the City's annexation area and Sphere of Influence!
Dave August 01, 2012 at 05:06 AM
60 new jobs at the mine and 10 more at local fast food restaurants in exchange for poor air quality, declining home values and damage to the environment over the next 5 decades......no thanks.
wolfcreek August 01, 2012 at 05:11 AM
I don’t have the ability but some investigative reporting needs to be done to ascertain the connection with Granite Quarry and the Supervisors who voted for the fast tracking. With the outspoken opposition to this project can there be any other reason for the 3-2 vote? Come on Press Enterprise, go to work.
Anita Louise Cressy August 01, 2012 at 05:57 AM
My sticker "Temecula is Wine Country NOT Mine Country" is still on my car. I am very disgusted with the actions supporting Liberty Quarry and changing rules.
TVOR August 01, 2012 at 02:37 PM
Paul, the city did not simply give up annexation of the area where the mine is proposed. They fought hard but lost in court. Our city council has worked hard to protect our interests.
Kim August 01, 2012 at 03:18 PM
Obviously someone is in somebody's pocket. What happened to for the people by the people? The "People" don't want the quarry! The wants of a few are going to destroy what the many have built. Interesting how if it doesn't go their way, they simply change the law. We have to abide by laws, so shouldRiverside County Board of Supervisors, not simply change them to make it easier on themselves. What happened to doing what it Right?
Martisa August 01, 2012 at 03:26 PM
Well, this has been going on now in the entire country for a while. The people normally ignore it for the plight of their specific political party. For example, the people of our country is clearly against some of the ligislation passed on imigration, but the politicians say, "screw the people it's up to us." Also, the people were for healthcare change in mass numbers, but once the lies started coming to play the people started switching sides. If the people don't start paying attention to the government, they end up being..."We are Not the people" not decratic society.
Martisa August 01, 2012 at 03:26 PM
Well, this has been going on now in the entire country for a while. The people normally ignore it for the plight of their specific political party. For example, the people of our country is clearly against some of the ligislation passed on imigration, but the politicians say, "screw the people it's up to us." Also, the people were for healthcare change in mass numbers, but once the lies started coming to play the people started switching sides. If the people don't start paying attention to the government, they end up being..."We are Not the people" not decratic society.
Reverend Smith August 01, 2012 at 03:31 PM
Just remember - when Granite accuses Temecula residents of "NIMBYism" - that it is San Diego County which has restricted Granite from sacrificing their "backyard" for more rock for parking lots to blight the landscape and damage the environment. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Environmental_impact_of_concrete Also, blacktop can be recycled. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asphalt_concrete#Recycling
Thetis Pressley August 01, 2012 at 03:41 PM
We were at the Board meeting yesterday, and I really want to thank Jeff Stone for his adamant support of SOS's position. His "smoke and mirrors" comment was spot on!! If the rest of the board thinks we are giving up, they are sorely mistaken. Thank you TVOR for posting the correct info about the annexation.
Candi Oliver August 01, 2012 at 04:57 PM
Put this filthy granite mine next to the greedy people that voted for its homes and ask if the enjoy the environment . How many times has a granite truck tossed granite out of the top of the open carriers and spilled it somewhere, sometimes someones car and may brake your window? I have had it happen to me twice on Hwy 15 by the Magnolia turnoff. These people do not care about the Holy ground of the Pechanga Indians nor all of our children nor anything but money. We have to stop[ this and start a recall on the Supervisors that are pushing for it NOW, how many are coming up for re-election? Or do they not count on the votes from SW Riverside County. How would they like us to dump this on them. Not enough benefits for the poor bounty we the citizens of SW Riverside county will receive.
Paul Jacobs August 01, 2012 at 05:49 PM
TVOR. I have been at almost every single hearing. I missed my dad's birthday in 2010 to tell the Council NOT to give up annexation. The City gave it away without a fight. Show me one legal filing against LAFCO from the City of Temecula. You can't, because it never happened. Why do you make stuff up for them?
Jeff K August 01, 2012 at 06:03 PM
And Dave. as Stone said, these 60 jobs will not come from Temecula and Murrieta residents. They will come from the multitude of experienced quarry workers all over Southern California. Don't be fooled.
Jeff K August 01, 2012 at 06:09 PM
Alright Paul......lets prove yourself. You know inside people. Find out through the freedom of information act, where Granite money has gone? Show this county that you are a worker, just not an attender of events. Come back with real facts. Answer some questions that might hurt. Like- what contributions over the last 5 years have gone to Southwestern County politicians?? How about the the Granite cheerleader squad, our own Southwest County Tea Party and the Murrieta-Temecula Republican Assembly....you know the good ole folks who sponsored dogs at the Muslim Mosque and the enlisting of Gary Stein for Murrieta City Council and OF COURSE Paul, one of your favoirites....your only way into the Temecula City Council , Term Limits. We'll wait to see what you learn.
kRISTY August 01, 2012 at 06:35 PM
What can I do to help get this turned down? I DO NOT WANT A LIBERTY QUARRY ANYWHERE NEAR TEMECULA!
TVOR August 01, 2012 at 06:41 PM
I'm not making anything up, my comments are based on what I have seen and read as well as conversations with the city council members. I believe they tried to win annexation but were beat in the process.
TVOR August 01, 2012 at 06:44 PM
If you don't live in Temecula why are you so concerned about our city council?
kyle August 01, 2012 at 07:09 PM
This has been voted on and the issue should be dead. No Quarry period
Don August 01, 2012 at 08:55 PM
I would urge everyone to scour the internet to find out if, and how much Supervisor Benoit and Supervisor Tavaglione have actually received in political donations, and let us all know so we can really go to town on them.
likely_candidate August 01, 2012 at 09:21 PM
"Lake Elsinore Resident" hit the nail on the head. None of this fast-tracking is any coincidence. It was a well planned event. Stone (and others) will get what they've wanted all along without having to even vote yes, thanks to buddy Benoit. People of the County, take off the rose colored glasses, four Supervisors need to be recalled. This County is about to fast track every project that rolls in front of it. It's not about jobs, but it IS about money.
Diane Walden August 01, 2012 at 10:00 PM
We live on the south side of Temecula, just south of Pauba Road, and get those great afternoon winds every day. So, members of the City Council and Supervisors, where are your homes?? I suspect the city (and maybe the County) will be bombarded with phone calls if this monstrosity actually happens when the wind brings the dust. Hope no one in the area has breathing problems....yet anyway. So sad to see 'democracy at work'...not. More jobs for the area? How about using the City's public channel to help promote local businesses like ours and others who have lived here for decades instead of simply the wineries, the Promenade Mall and Old Town? Then we could hire the help we'd love to hire when the locals come in looking for the jobs we don't have because the only businesses promoted seem to be in those three categories. Can't see the people who are looking for retail or office jobs with local businesses wanting to work in a quarry..just can't.
Chris August 01, 2012 at 10:07 PM
Please contact your Senators, House of Represenatives, FBI, DOJ and inform them of the corrupt actions of our three County Supervisors that are forcing this quarry on Rainbow, Temecula, Deer Springs, Fallbrook and other residences of the sorrounding areas.
Jacob Stillman August 01, 2012 at 10:16 PM
I agree LER,,,,,,Melissa Melendez is another Republican on the edge of fear and paranoia. Did we not see what happened with our current Tea Party House of Representatives in DC?? What have they done?? Nothing.
Cheri August 02, 2012 at 02:07 AM
Temecula Resident...tell everyone which branch of the FBI to contact, and everyone do it...these people are being bribed, and I thought that was against the law???especially John Tavaglione? This was voted out and proven in every way to be unhealthy, and will ruin the beautiful city...these supervisors do not live here, and are just in it for their kickback...I personally think they will get found out and BLOWN out of the water-the people in this city have spoken, and there was a vote already made-the Pechanga Indians are totally against it-something from the BIG MAN IN THE SKY WILL MAKE THEM GO AWAY!!! every doctor in the area is against it....60 jobs to ruin a whole city?. Maybe they will be the producers of granite headstones for all of the death it will cause? That will make Temecula a real tourist attraction! Put the proper people like the FBI in the local penneysaver...get it out there -git er done!
Brave Heart August 02, 2012 at 11:08 PM
The Supervisors get to add "created jobs to help the economy" to their resume and the voters in Riverside County will vote according to political lines. The voters that do not live in the Temecula area do not care about our issue as long as the revenue benefits the county as a whole. This happens all over the country, politicians selling out to big business and bolstering resumes with job creation. The uninformed follow along because that is what their political party persuades them is the "Right" way to vote. Why not fast track a quarry in the backyard of Benoit, Tavaglione, and Ashley? I will support that.
denise lemieux August 03, 2012 at 02:31 AM
I agree just follow the Money trail. Temecula is the best thing Riverside co. has going. I will sent the and e-mail to the FBI to investigate loss creeps.
Chris August 03, 2012 at 04:00 AM
Don't forget to contact you state assembly members. They have more jurisdiction than our Senators and House of Represenative members. It was cool getting a reply email from Barbara Boxer today.

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