Liberty Quarry Final Environmental Impact Report is Released

The Riverside County Planning Department has released the Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR) for Granite Construction’s proposed Liberty Quarry Project south of Temecula. At 8,500 pages, the document is easily half again as long as the draft EIR released last year. I haven’t slogged through the report yet but preliminary indication is that it backs up the draft EIR findings that Riverside County would benefit economically and environmentally from the proposed quarry location.

That will have no impact whatsoever on quarry opponents who argue that the blasting will disrupt the area, reduce property values, contribute to earthquakes, and produce clouds of deadly silica dust that will entomb our region. To say it’s been an impassioned argument over the past few years would be an understatement. Sadly, it has pitted neighbor against neighbor, city against county and logic against emotion more than once. The Letters to the Editor section of the local paper would dry up if not for the continual missives pro & con on this single subject.

I posted information on this two years ago after our Directors had visited another quarry site and the SDSU Preserve area adjacent to where the new quarry would be located. The Southwest Riverside County Association of Realtors® has not taken a position on the quarry project but has attempted to bring accurate information to our members so they have some background should they choose to make their own informed decision. You can get that background here:

Liberty Quarry & Private Property Rights

SDSU Showcases the Santa Margarita Watershed

Public hearings have been scheduled for the project on April 26 and May 3 at Rancho Community Church (31300 Rancho Community Way) in Temecula starting at 4 pm.

The report is available for your perusal at: Liberty Quarry Final EIR

Few will actually read it, everybody will be quoting the ‘facts’ as they interpret them. And no matter which side prevails in the County’s final decision, we may be assured this will tie up the courts for several more years. Some people have more solid granite between their ears than would be mined from the Liberty Quarry in the next 75 years.


Disagree without being Disagreeable – Please!

During the past two MLS Marketing meetings we have been fortunate to have guest speakers presenting their position on the much debated Liberty Quarry. This is a very important issue for our community as the quarry would be a neighbor of ours for the next 80 years, it’s operation would impact our lives in myriad ways and the hole in our mountain would remain long after Temecula returns to a desert wasteland.

SRCAR Directors have taken tours of facilities, spoken with numerous parties regarding the quarry, read volumes of city & LAFCO documents and have brought in the two most relevant groups to provide information to our members – Granite Construction and The City of Temecula.

Unfortunately a few of our members mistook the Marketing meeting for the Jerry Springer show and took the opportunity to show how mis-informed they are and how rude they can be. This rudeness was aimed both at our guest speakers and at fellow Realtors who had the temerity to hold opinions that differed from the great un-informed.I realize these members will not read this post – based on their actions and opinions, it’s apparent they don’t read much. Certainly they have never read Article 15 of the  Realtor Code of Ethics.

EVERY participant in the Liberty Quarry debate has been guilty of fabricating facts, stretching the truth and outright lying at some point during the debate. However, for sheer volume, most blatant lying and attempted intimidation, the top honor is unanimously bestowed on the anti-quarry faction (not to be confused with the City of Temecula). In my years of research on a variety of issues, I have never been subjected to the vitriol and obfuscation I have witnessed surrounding this issue. Simply having a neutral stance, trying to ascertain the facts or trying to resolve legal issues qualifies you for a tongue lashing from these quarry bashers, most of whom are blissfully ignorant of the facts either pro or con.

We continue to encourage our Members to get ALL the facts on this issue so you can make an INFORMED decision. Take the Granite Construction tour, take the SDSU tour, talk with the City and with our elected representatives.

We understand this is an emotional issue but that doesn’t mean professionalism and ethics can be ignored – especially in AOR sanctioned meetings where your actions reflect on this Association. The mark of professionals is that you can disagree without being disagreeable. If you can’t aspire to that goal, then keep your disagreeable ass away from settings wherein professionals are trying to educate themselves.

SDSU Showcases Santa Margarita Watershed in Quarry Question

This is one of those issues where the more information you get the confuseder you become.  I hope you joined us on 4/21 for a presentation by Granite Construction on the Liberty Quarry project. After a brief overview of the project, they addressed some issues they have with the City of Temecula’s annexation request for the land where the quarry would be.

tourHaving toured Granite Construction’s Indio quarry site and the parcel in the hills south of Temecula, we thought it only fair to get the city’s views – since we have a long history of good relations with our cities. The result was two-fold. Today AOR Directors toured the Santa Margarita Watershed with Temecula’s Mayor Maryann Edwards, and Dr. Matt Rahn, Director of the SDSU Field Studies Program that manages the watershed project.

margaritaThe preserve occupies about 4,500 acres of pristine wilderness and has one of the last wild rivers in California., the Santa Margarita. They claim that the water in the Santa Margarita today started percolating through the granite mountains 1,000 years ago.

The mountain is solid granite for 1,000 feet.

margaritaWhich brings us to the divergence – all that granite. It’s the reason Granite Construction selected the site – all that granite. And where they want to quarry is about a mile and a half from this ecological preserve in the center of a wildlife corridor. SDSU and other groups conduct hundreds of experiments and on-going studies in the reserve including delicate seismic measures and species monitoring. Many of these groups are concerned that the nearby presence of a quarry mining operation would be disastrous to the preserve.

testsIt might seem that on one side it is a business decision based on supply & demand, dollars and cents, on the other is the emotional decision – and sometimes simply a NIMBY attitude. But there are at least five or more sides to this story and the outcome will be with us for 80 years, regardless of which side wins. There are so many angles on the issue there’s room for all of them to be right – at least some of the time. It will be up to LAFCO on June 4 to decide if the City or the County will determine the fate of that parcel of land.

Please join us at our 4/28 marketing meeting when Temecula Mayor Maryann Edwards and Sean Nelson, City Manager, will be our guests. They’ll provide the City’s overview of the project and why they are proposing annexation.

In my next post on the subject, I’ll include some discussion from Senator Hollingsworth before LAFCO has their say.

Again, SRCAR does not support or oppose the quarry project. We are concerned about a possible property rights issue and that is our sole interest. We heartily encourage you to get ALL the facts if you plan to make a decision. Both Granite Construction and SDSU are available to provide information and/or a tour. It’s a worthwhile exercise in civic responsibility.

Photos courtesy of Walter Wilson & Howard Delsite.

Liberty Quarry & Private Property Rights

I don’t personally care if you’re for or against the Liberty Quarry Project proposed for the foothills southwest of Temecula. All I ask is before you engage me in a discussion, please have some facts at your disposal. I get real tired of emotional arguments proferred as facts, out-and-out lies and mis-statements masquerading as the truth, and NIMBY and environmental whack-jobs trying to sway me to their cause by increasing the volume of their rhetoric. Simply yelling BS loudly does not make it a fact – it merely makes it loud BS.

BODOK. Now that we’re clear on the ground rules, the Southwest Riverside County Association of Realtors has been evaluating the Granite Construction project at Liberty Quarry. This is a major project that may be a neighbor to our community for the next 75 or 80 years. To that end, we have had a presentation by members of the anti-quarry group Save our Southwest Hills and yesterday 4 members of our Board took a tour of Granite Construction’s Indio Quarry and then trekked into the southwest hills to look over the proposed Liberty site.

homesThe BOD has not made a decision on whether or not to support the quarry proposal itself. There are numerous facts in evidence to justify support as well as some negative concerns. But I suspect that based on our criteria, the issue will be adjudged ‘not real estate related’. Though the foundational use of aggregate underlies real estate in Southwest County, our homes, businesses and infrastructure, the subjective issue of quarry location is not in itself a Realtor issue. You can make up your own mind as to need & location but I encourage you to get ALL the facts before making that decision.

What is an issue for us, however, is a private property rights issue concernoing the proposed annexation by the City of Temecula of the land on which the quarry would be sited. That issue is fairly simple.

  1. There is a Seller (or Sellers) who are willing to sell their land
  2. There is a Buyer (Granite Construction) ready, willing and able to buy the land
  3. The land is zoned ‘rr20 w/mining allowed’ as it’s highest and best use. The zoning is appropriate for the intended use by Granite Construction.That zoning pre-dates the existence of the City of Temecula and recognizes the critical role that mining plays in our economic structure.

map1We are looking into the property rights aspect of this issue by trying to make sense of the documents that all parties have/or will submit to LAFCO prior to their June 4 hearing on annexation. In addition to concerns of a taking – and – downzoning by the City, there are also concerns with the letter of the annexation law. For a city to annex land (remember Temecula/Redhawk & Murrieta/East Murrieta), they must be able to prove that the acquisition will be productive – in other words, you can’t just acquire something that will put a negative drain on city resources – there must be some common good.

The City states that their annexation plans are valid and justified and would not result in an appreciable change to the underlying zoning, it would merely provide the element of local control on the land. And in part, the city may have used some sketchy numbers to pad up the numbers in the report by including plans for the construction of 81 custom homes on part of the land. Now if you’ve seen the area you know that the area:

  1. is simply not conducive to residential/estate development due to the steep rocky nature of the land, lack of access and utilities. If it was that damned easy and attractive, the current landowners would have built there years ago.
  2. the City claims they will have no responsibility for infrastructure or development in the area. If residents want to build here, they are responsible to bring in their own utilities, roads, power, etc. It’s not too surprising that many of the current landowners are all in favor of this  project. Let’s see – on the one hand we can keep this worthles pile of gravel we bought that we could never afford to build on – on the other hand we can sell to this big company for a tidy sum. Hmmmm, tough call, eh? The City offers one further scenario – they maybe can sell it to a wildlife preserve for probably a less tidy sum.
  3. will NEVER pay for itself because residential property is a drain on city resources, not a benefit. In a nutshell that’s why the City of Temecula is in better fiscal condition that Murrieta – because they have a larger commercial base whereas Murrieta is primarily relying on a residential base. But in this case they seem to be playing against type.

map2You should also know that 85% of the area is already zoned for habitat and open space. Granite Construction is planning to buy about 400 acres and, in compliance with county, state & federal mandates, their quarry will be confined to just 150 of those acres – none within line of site of any area of Temecula, the I-15 or much of anywhere other than aircraft.

Again, you can choose to believe or disbelieve facts pertaining to air quality, silica dust, asphalt production, traffic reductions, the cost of aggregate to our local market or any of the myriad of pertinent issues. I encourage you to visit some of the websites on the issue to get your own facts and make your own informed decision as to the quarry itself.

However, if someone tells you it will be the largest open pit mine in the country, that they will be blasting 24 hours a day with baseball field lights on all night, that it will encroach on the wildlife preserve or the Santa Margarita river watershed, that it will increase truck traffic or that we simply don’t need or would not benefit from local access to aggregate products, they’re dissembling.

For more information please visit: Granite Construction , The City of Temecula, or LibertyQuarry Facts.

Please plan to attend the Granite Construction presentation at our Tuesday morning marketing meeting on April 21st and bring your questions for the  Q & A. And our special guests on 4/28 will be Temecula Mayor Maryann Edwards and City Manager Sean Nelson.

On the issue of private property rights, there can be no question where Realtors stand.