10:00 PM PDT on Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Press-Enterprise

Residents straddling the Riverside-San Bernardino county border are organizing to protest a warehouse/business park project proposed for the defunct El Rivino golf course property.

The Rialto Commerce Center calls for 3.6 million square feet of warehouse space — about 75 football fields — on 164 acres including the 129-acre golf course, surrounded on two sides by residential properties and next door to Green Acres Memorial Park and Mortuary.

Although the property sits in unincorporated San Bernardino County, it has been annexed to the city of Rialto.

Local residents David Getty and Linda Rither are opposed to a warehouse project being proposed for the former El Rivino golf course site in the Bloomington community. They say it will bring noise, lights and massive truck traffic to the area.

The Rialto Planning Commission recommended approval of the project April 14, and it heads to the City Council for final approval. No date has been set for the council hearing.

Residents say they plan to make their stand at the council meeting, arguing that the noise, lights and hundreds of big rigs traveling to and from the facility have no place in their neighborhood.

“I just go by common sense,” said David Getty, whose housing tract sits across the street from the old golf course property in San Bernardino County. “You don’t drop something like this in the middle of a residential area.”

“It just isn’t appropriate,” said Linda Rither, who lives on Malaga Drive, which lies off Rubidoux Boulevard in Riverside County, just south of the county line.

Tim Howard, regional partner for Atlanta-based Oakmont Industrial Group, which is developing the project, said concerns about traffic, noise and air pollution have been addressed in the environmental impact report.
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He said the commerce center will bring more than 1,000 badly needed jobs to the area.

“We really need to heal the economy and get things back on their feet,” Howard said.

Residents aren’t the only ones with concerns. Riverside and San Bernardino county officials also have questions about the project.

One of the two main routes trucks will take to the facility will be to exit Highway 60 at Rubidoux Boulevard and head north.

Juan Perez, Riverside County’s transportation director, said his agency is seeking an updated traffic study to determine the amount of truck traffic that is expected and its impact on Riverside streets.

“I just go by common sense,” said David Getty. “You don’t drop something like this in the middle of a residential area.”

In a December 2009 letter to Rialto Mayor Grace Vargas, San Bernardino County Supervisor Josie Gonzales, whose 5th District includes Bloomington, expressed concerns about the impact of the project on surrounding residential neighborhoods.

“Initially, I am not inclined to support Oakmont Industrial Group’s development as proposed,” the supervisor wrote.

Bloomington resident Maria Alba, 30, said she understands the need for commerce and jobs at a time of financial distress.

“We have nothing against the project,” Alba said recently. But she quickly adds “It’s the location.”

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