Consultant search slows quarry plan

A proposal for a hard rock and aggregate quarry on 23 acres four miles east of Santa Margarita will be slowed for up to a month as the county broadens its search for firms to conduct an environmental impact report.

The county Planning and Building Department had tentatively selected Benchmark Associates to conduct the environmental study for the proposed Las Pilitas LLC quarry — also known as the Oster Mine — even though Benchmark’s bid was highest.

A group of area residents calling themselves Santa Margarita Proud complained that Benchmark was too closely tied to developers — a charge strongly denied by planners.

Santa Margarita Proud fought actively to have someone else selected.

That led to a note April 22 from Supervisor Jim Patterson telling Santa Margarita Proud that “the environmental coordinator and planning department have decided to re-issue the request for proposals in order to get a broader range of proposals from interested consultants.”

He said that would take three or four weeks.

“After the submission deadline, the proposals will be available for public review,” Patterson wrote. “We will keep you informed as we progress through the consultant selection process.”

“It appears that we may have won round one,” Santa Margarita Proud’s Roy Reeves wrote in an email to The Tribune. “However, it will probably continue.”

Santa Margarita Proud has been fighting the proposed quarry, which, it says, has a host of problems, the most significant of which is traffic.

The quarry could generate as many as 200 truck trips through the North County community every day when it is operating at full bore, Santa Margarita Proud argues.

The quarry would be located at 660 Calf Canyon Highway, on Highway 58 at the Salinas River bridge.

In addition to the way the environmental study is done, and concerns about traffic, Santa Margarita Proud is worried about water, noise, dust and other issues, Reeves said.

The quarry proposal is in its initial stages, and public hearings are roughly a year away.