In a statement released Friday, Sept. 21, that called into question the benefits of the Liberty Quarry to residents and job seekers, the city of Temecula said it is ” adamantly opposed to Riverside County’s proposed Ordinance changes to allow surface mining applications to be fast-tracked which circumvents the Planning Commission in the County’s land use approval process.”
The debate surrounding the Liberty Quarry has been a years-long battle for city officials and residents.
Despite Granite Construction’s promise of jobs, the controversial Liberty Quarry project has long drawn stiff opposition from Temecula city council members, Pechanga tribal leaders, and local groups who reject the idea of a rock quarry clouding up Temecula’s picturesque hills.
The original Liberty Quarry was voted down with the Riverside County Board of Supervisors’ 3-2 vote against the proposed mining project on Feb. 16, 2012.
In May, a divided Riverside County Board of Supervisors moved to certify an environmental impact report for the strip mine near Temecula, drawing sharp criticism from those opposed to the project and opening the door to a “fast-track” proposal that will be debated at the Riverside County Board of Supervisor’s meeting today.
Friday’s letter asserted that while local governments “sometimes use the fast-track process as an economic development tool that can reduce steps in the planning process for a project,” the approval of such major land use decisions “should require, at the very least, a standard level of review.”
Citing 1970′s California Environmental Quality Act — a measure created as a system of checks and balances for land-use development decisions in California — the city of Temecula said that “the practical application of CEQA is that proposed projects are studied and vetted in the public arena. The City of Temecula strongly believes that the best community decisions are those that are thoroughly studied and debated.”
The long-term impact of such a project will be deeply felt by Temecula residents, the city maintained.
“This project will forever destroy a mountain, alter the natural environment including air quality to the detriment of our region, irreversibly impact the watershed and obliterate the Luiseño Indian Creation Area among many other impacts,” the letter said.
In addition to calling for a full review and public debate, the city of Temecula also urged that the role of the County Planning Commission not be ignored with a fast-track scenario.
“The County Planning Commissioners have familiarity and expertise with development issues and the importance of their role should not be overlooked. Liberty Quarry has serious implications for the region and affects current and future generations. How could a project of such magnitude not be given the standard review by their appointed Planning Commission?” the letter said.