A group of sand and gravel miners is trying to skip the County Planning Commission entirely and take their project straight to the current incarnation of the Board of Supervisors. And the county’s two lame-duck supervisors want to give them a chance.
Five separate sand and gravel mining applications are being proposed in the North County. The projects, though separate applications, are being processed together.
On Aug. 5, the applicants went before the Board of Supervisors, several of them armed with attorneys and threats of lawsuits. They said that county planning staffers have dragged the application process out for more than three years. They went on to accuse staff members and a planning commissioner—who was not named—of having a personal agenda against the project.
The request is set against the backdrop of a recent vote for change on the board. In the June elections, voters selected Adam Hill and Frank Mecham to replace Jerry Lenthall and Harry Ovitt. But Hill and Mecham don’t take their seats until January.
Recently, the state Department of Fish and Game and state Regional Water Quality Control Board suggested that the environmental review shift from a Mitigated Negative Declaration to a lengthy and expensive Environmental Impact Report. Both state agencies said the cumulative impacts from the five mining operations warranted a more detailed review.
But the applicants accused county officials of having personal agendas and of prompting the letters in order to kill their projects.
“It seems this county is so caught up in its own agenda it cannot look at the real issues,” said Colin Weyrick, one of the applicants.
John Nall, the county’s principal environmental specialist, said in a phone interview that “staff disagrees with many of the comments that were made by the speakers.”
Rather than risk an EIR or have the projects denied by the planning commission and have to appeal at a later date, the five applicants asked to go over the heads of planning commissioners and straight to the Board of Supervisors.
Ovitt and Lenthall were on board with the idea. Ovitt suggested the board have its own discussion, and Lenthall agreed. Supervisor James Patterson, however, immediately chimed in with worries about usurping the planning commission. Ovitt continued to push his idea and, after some haggling, the other supervisors agreed to have a discussion on Sept. 16, but at the direction of Patterson and county counsel, there will be no action taken.