Supervisor John Benoit/(File Photo)

 

BY JEFF HORSEMAN
STAFF WRITER
jhorseman@pe.com

Published: 26 July 2012 07:31 PM

A rift has developed between two Riverside County supervisors over re-submitted plans for the Liberty Quarry.

Supervisor John Benoit, who represents desert cities, is supporting efforts to fast track plans for the Temecula-area open pit gravel mine.

But Supervisor Jeff Stone, who represents Temecula and has been one of the board’s leading quarry opponents, said Benoit should not try to fast-track projects in his district.

Benoit put an item on the Tuesday, July 31, board agenda asking staff members to prepare amendments to add surface mining to the fast-track list.

Stone said in an email that he was offended by Benoit’s actions.

“I have not seen this type of action in the eight years I have been on the Board. We all have respected district lines when land-use decisions are made,” Stone wrote. “With a county of our size, the district supervisor best understands the land-use and political landscape of his respective district.”

If the fast-track is approved, it could create acrimony on the board, Stone said. warned.

The Board of Supervisors in February rejected the quarry by a 3-2 vote, but developer Granite Construction this week proposed a scaled-back plan it says will have less of an environmental impact.

Currently, supervisors can’t fast-track the quarry since surface mining is not on the list of projects eligible for the process. If it is fast-tracked, the project would bypass the county planning commission and go directly to the Board of Supervisors for possible approval.

The 7-year-old quarry showdown pits business and labor interests, who see the quarry as a job-creating economic boost, against Temecula city officials, environmentalists and the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians, who argue the project would pollute the air, clog local roads with gravel trucks and destroy a sacred tribal site.

Under Granite’s latest proposal, the quarry would have fewer trucks, shorter hours of operation and a shorter lifespan — 50 years instead of 75. Also, less aggregate, tiny rocks used in construction, would be mined than the previous version, Granite said.

Benoit said his support for the Liberty Quarry “is not a personal issue. This is about what’s best for the county of Riverside. … There are many, many good reasons in my mind why this project makes sense, and they’re not limited to the area around the quarry.”

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