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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Roblar Road Quarry Hearing April 1


The Planning Commission meeting is still planned for April 1, 1:45 p.m. at the Permit & Resource Management Dept. hearing room in Santa Rosa. The commission will again take public comment, but only on the hydrology issues related to the FEIR. Due to the letter sent in December to the County from the California Regional Water Quality Board pointing out serious deficiencies in the FEIR with respect to blasting next to the closed landfill and its potential impacts on water, we think the County and the applicant have been scrambling to come up with some plan that will attempt to mitigate these serious issues. Since the County staff recommended the Planning Commission accept the project last December despite there being more than 160 conditions of approval to be addressed, we think they will approve it on April 1 and pass it along to the Supervisors for a vote this spring.

CARRQ (Citizens Advocating for Roblar Rural Quality) is trying to mobilize more support for a fight at the supervisor level. As a small grass roots organization this is definitely a David and Goliath story. We are working a little bit with the Sonoma County Conservation Action group and we have support from the RussianRiverkeepers, Community Clean Water Institute and the Sebastopol Water Information Group. Supervisorial candidates (Second District) John King and Pamela Torliatt are opposed to the project, with John King speaking against it at the last planning commission meeting.

This quarry should be of concern to all Sonoma County residents, not just those of us who live nearby.

Some key reasons are:

The use of $2.3. million of taxpayer dollars to purchase property from John Barella (owner of North Bay Construction) to preserve 750 acres of dairy land as Open Space. Now he and the County want to take back some of those acres to run 200 to 400 gravel trucks a day over this pristine area.

The County will be liable in perpetuity for any environmental hazards/impacts caused by the quarry if it is built and permitted to operate for 20+ years (and aren’t they already in a big enough mess with the current landfill let alone the closed, unlined landfill on Roblar Road?)
The County has not adequately tested the potential health hazards that could be present from particulate matter blowing westward toward Cotati/Petaluma from the quarry site once blasting and hauling the gavel begins.

The County has shown no economic need for the rock from this site. Blighting this area to provide John Barella’s company with up to 80% of the rock from this quarry (therefore not really making this rock widely available to other companies or citizens at a cheaper rate) would be a travesty.

We need all the help we can get publicizing this quarry beyond the ~300 residents in the Roblar/Valley Ford/Meacham and Pepper Road areas who support CARRQ. We know this project isn’t as sexy or as visible as the Dutra asphalt plant on the Petaluma River. But blasting the daylights out of a beautiful hillside when there is no public benefit to do so surely would be of interest to people who love living in Sonoma County—we need to get the word out and would appreciate as broad of coverage in the West County Gazette as you can give us.

I’ve attached the public notice about the upcoming Planning Commission meeting and a document with some key issue points.

Thank you very much,

Donna Spilman
Become a fan of CARRQ on Facebook!


1. This proposed Roblar quarry is surrounded by a dairy belt off Roblar Road, allegedly preserved as Open Space.

2. The property is directly adjacent to an old unlined and uncapped landfill, closed in 1975, which long time local residents have admitted contain many undesirable chemicals dumped there in the years it was an active landfill, prior to public understanding of the harm in the chemicals.

3. In the 1980’s and 1990’s two separate applications to develop this land as a quarry were strongly objected to by neighbors and rejected by the County.

4. In 2001, the County's Open Space District offered the owner of the land around the rejected quarry $1.6 million of taxpayer money to buy development rights to preserve it as Open Space. The owner died before accepting.

5. Later in 2001, John Barella, the owner of North Bay Construction, bought 750 acres of this land. Mr. Barella asked the County to buy his development rights for the same 750 acres and put it into Open Space.

6. In 2003, the County paid John Barella $2.3 million for the same 750 acres it had previously offered for $1.6 million, to preserve it from development.

7. In 2003, Mr. Barella and North Bay Construction asked for permission to mine gravel from the rejected quarry.

8. In 2008, North Bay decided that it would need to run its gravel trucks through the Open Space to operate its planned gravel mine. North Bay Construction’s lawyer wrote and asked the County’s Open Space District to allow them to run gravel trucks through the same land whose development rights they had sold to the County for $2.3 million in 2003.

9. North Bay Construction said the proposed quarry will have 200 to 400 trips of gravel trucks on the roads every day for the next twenty years. There will be blasting causing excessive dust.
10. Serious concerns of harmful air quality and potential damage to local water quality, both for area wells and the Estero Americano, have not been able to be mitigated.

11. On December 17, 2009, based on the Final Environmental Impact Report (EIR), the staff of the County Planning Commission recommended that the County let North Bay Construction develop the quarry, even though the County admits there are more than 160 conditions surrounding the project that cannot be mitigated to prevent hazards to water, air quality, health and safety, and environmental impacts to nearby streams and wetlands.

12. The County’s Planning staff recommended that the County approve mining in the gravel pit and allow North Bay Construction’s trucks to run through the Open Space land.

13. The County’s justification for the project is that rock from the proposed Roblar quarry is needed for local construction projects and that County residents will be able to get cheaper gravel. The Russian Riverkeepers organization has investigated the need for gravel and determined there is “no documented shortage of aggregate (gravel) and the future supply from existing sources is well over 100% of the demand.”

14. Neither the County nor North Bay Construction have tested the dump to know what kind of poisons are in it and how much of them will flow out when the mining digs into its side. For that reason, the California State Regional Water Control Board has told the County the EIR is deficient.

A gravel mine at this location is a terrible idea. It’s bad for the land, bad for the water, bad for these narrow two lane back country roads and bad for residents, drivers and bicyclists who travel along Roblar Road, Valley Ford, Pepper and Meacham Roads.

The County will decide whether or not to permit the quarry operation very soon. Now is the last opportunity to speak up. Write or call your County representatives!

Citizens Advocating for Roblar Rural Quality (CARRQ)
For more information:
Spread the word! Become a Fan of CARRQ on Facebook and log in with your opinion.

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