Throughout the last seven years, Granite Construction has invested considerable time and approximately $10 million in what appears to be a nearly flawless execution of a permitting strategy for its proposed Liberty Quarry.
Since 2005, the company’s community relations team has shared facts about the proposed site and made a strong argument that not only are additional permitted reserves necessary, but that a close location reduces the environmental impact of sourcing construction materials. Liberty Quarry’s website includes detailed reports on traffic, air, and noise studies; a presentation dispelling myths about the operation; and an outline of Granite Construction’s core values and code of conduct.
The proposed quarry has received numerous endorsements, as well as the support of numerous public officials, area businesses, and more than 5,000 individuals. It’s no wonder. In 2010, the company was recognized by the Ethisphere Institute as one of the “World’s Most Ethical Companies.” William Dorey, its president and CEO, served as the first chairman of the governing body for the Construction Industry Ethics and Compliance Initiative.
It appeared that the company’s effort and reputation were yielding dividends, but when push came to shove, local opposition prevailed. Last year, the Riverside County Planning Commission voted 4-1 to deny the project, and earlier this year, the Riverside County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 to reject Granite Construction’s appeal of that decision.
In rejecting the appeal, one supervisor said the quarry’s health and safety risks outweighed any “alleged” and “highly questionable” benefits. Another nay vote came from a supervisor who is also a congressional candidate and could well have prioritized his political career over community stewardship.
Unfortunately, rather than embracing a project that Granite Construction estimated would create jobs for a hard-hit employment sector, yield $300 million in sales tax revenue, and provide an additional $41 million in property tax fees, Temecula city officials spent almost $1.4 million in tax payer dollars to stymie the project. Regardless of whether the project eventually is developed, the community is the biggest loser in this scenario. Riverside County and Temecula public officials yielded to fear and ignorance instead of doing their homework, weighing expert opinions, and creating much needed jobs and revenue for their community.
3 Things I learned from this issue
1. A 300- to 400-foot buffer of natural vegetation helps a site blend with its setting, page 21.
2. A clearance of 24 inches around the screen box facilitates operation and maintenance, page 34.
3. If a citation falls under MSHA’s Rules to Live By, the penalties can be 10-fold, page 39.