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Temecula moves ahead to annex quarry site

 

Last updated 3/15/2007 at Noon



On Tuesday, March 6, the Temecula City Council began the process of attempting to pull the land out from underneath the controversial Liberty Quarry. The council resolved to apply for the annexation of 4,600 acres of land on Temecula’s southwest border. Granite Construction Company applied with Riverside County to use part of that land as a mine.

Temecula will tentatively use the land for ecological research in partnership with San Diego State University (SDSU). SDSU has a research station in the adjacent (Fallbrook) Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve.

The usually vacant council chamber was filled with members from the anti-quarry group SOS-Hills. They have argued that the quarry would add truck traffic, disrupt the protected mountain lion habitat and cause pollution.

“SOS-Hills fully supports your efforts to annex this land,” group representative Cliff Hewlett said to the council.

Allen Haynie of Latham & Watkins, a law firm representing Granite Construction, voiced his displeasure with the council’s decision.

“The council is using the annexation to stop their project, which violates city policies,” he said. “A position for this project has been staked out by this council.”

Gary Johnson, the Aggregate Resource Development Manager of Granite Construction, wrote a letter complaining to the council. “The city should be clear in its intentions,” the letter read, “not try to ‘hide the ball’ in an inappropriate use of the annexation process.”

City staff reported the results of the feasibility study they commissioned in January. It will cost the city $17,000 in fees, plus the fire department’s cost to protect the area, said the study.

“The long-term impact on the city is minimal,” said City Staff member Steve Brown.

The final decision about the annexation will be made by the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO). Granite Construction feels that LAFCO will deny the city the permission they need to annex. In a letter to the council, Granite Construction cites ten LAFCO policies the annexation violates.

Granite also argued that the city needs to show that this annexation was intended in their general plan. Mayor Pro-Tem Mike Naggar believes the general plan does demonstrate this.

“[The city council] has been very vocal about our desire to acquire open space,” he said. The city has been working on acquiring an additional 1,800 acres of land to make a preserve in eastern Temecula.

According to Councilmember Ron Roberts, the council’s only interest is protecting the health of Temecula citizens.

Councilmember Maryann Edwards is bothered that Temecula will be the most affected by the quarry, but has no control over its regulation.

“We need to have a say in what happens,” she said.

Mayor Chuck Washington believes that the money Riverside County will make from the quarry’s taxes is too little. It was said that Temecula will make no money from the quarry directly.

“The City of Temecula should be the ones to reap the financial benefit,” he said.

This decision has no effect on Granite Construction’s course of action, said Haynie. They hope LAFCO denies the request to annex.

 

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