Duarte files lawsuit against Azusa, Vulcan

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And here we go….

Duarte, after getting permission to do so from the City Council, officially filed its lawsuit against Azusa to try and stop Vulcan Materials Co.’s mining plan.

Specifically, Duarte will attack the environmental impact report done by Steve Lilburn, a consultant for Azusa, and the inadequacies Duarte believes exist in the document. If that is found to be flawed, it would then lead to overturning the entire decision to approve by the council.

In addition, Duarte will seek to prove Azusa violated the Brown Act when they voted, without it being on the agenda, to reconsider Vulcan’s proposal after initially turning it down.

Here is Duarte’s statement they released Tuesday evening:

“With the filing of this lawsuit, the City of Azusa will no longer be able to turn a deaf ear to Duarte. It will now be up to a judge in a court of law. We are very confident that the judge will be in agreement with the City of Duarte,” said Duarte City Manager, Darrell George.

Email: daniel.tedford@sgvn.com | Twitter: @dgtedford @sgvtribune | Facebook: SGVTribune

Judy Chu plans to picnic for the Azusa referendum

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Congresswoman Judy Chu will speak at a fundraising event to support a referendum effort against an Azusa mining plan.

The potluck picnic fundraiser will be at 3 p.m. Saturday at the Duarte Historical Museum, 751 Encanto Parkway.

Chu has been an opponent of the mining plan after she heard numerous outcries from Duarte officials and residents at various meetings.

She has since condemned the plan and the documents surrounding it. The congresswoman represents both Azusa and Duarte.

Funds raised the event will support the referendum effort. Officials with the campaign have said they need the money to pay for copying costs and legal fees.

With its approved plan, Vulcan swapped its east 80 acres originally permitted for mining for 80 acres on the western end of its property near Duarte.

Email: daniel.tedford@sgvn.com | Twitter: @dgtedford @sgvtribune | Facebook: SGVTribune

New spokesperson for Vulcan Materials

For those of you familiar with the ongoing issue of the Azusa Rock Quarry, the plan from Vulcan Materials Co., and the battle between Azusa and Duarte, you are familiar with Vulcan spokesman Todd Priest, who is with the public relations firm Curt Pringle and Associates.

Well … I learned today that while Priest and his crew will remain as part of the team working for Vulcan, a new spokeswoman has taken over as the voice of the company from here on out.

Peg Casey, an employee with Vulcan, will be the one answering questions through the litigation process.

I spoke with Casey today following up on Duarte’s decision to pursue litigation. She has worked with Vulcan for 16 years and has been involved with the Azusa Rock Quarry project since 2003. Here what she had to say and more about the impending lawsuit in tomorrow’s newspaper.

Email: daniel.tedford@sgvn.com | Twitter: @dgtedford @sgvtribune | Facebook: SGVTribune

Isn’t this where we always thought it would go? Duarte will take Azusa to court

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Just when you thought it was over there is breaking news the Duarte City Council has unanimously decided to pursue litigation against Vulcan and Azusa over the recently approved Azusa Rock Quarry mining project.

OK, you didn’t really think it was over did you?

This is really only breaking news because it happened last night at a closed session council meeting. In truth, this probably surprises no one. Not me, not Duarte (the vote was unanimous), not Azusa, and not Vulcan.

Azusa has said all along they anticipated litigation, Vulcan and Azusa agreed in the development agreement that Vulcan would pay to fight any legal challenge, and Duarte has that $700,000 Fight Against Vulcan Expansion fund.

Plus, when Duarte, Vulcan and Azusa failed to reach a settlement deal earlier this year, if the project was approved what other outcome was there?

Now we will get to see what Duarte’s legal arguments will be. My guess is they will argue about the flaws in the environmental impact report, their believed contradictions in the development agreement, and the lack of a full evaluation and consideration of alternative project options including mining both sides of the canyon without cutting down any ridge lines.

Add in the potential for two Brown Act violations by Azusa, including the fact the original vote to reconsider the project was originally not on the council agenda.

Azusa (via Vulcan’s lawyers) will have to defend those allegations and its review of the project in court.

How does this affect mining for now? Duarte can seek an injunction that would prevent operations until the legal challenges end. The court would have to approve any injunction.

Email: daniel.tedford@sgvn.com | Twitter: @dgtedford @sgvtribune | Facebook: SGVTribune

Vulcan editorial linked on Azusa website, does it matter to you?

The city of Azusa’s website posted a link to the Tribune’s editorial on the Vulcan Materials Co’s Azusa Rock Quarry mining proposal decision.

This, to my recollection, is the first time the city has ever linked to a story written by this newspaper regarding the subject (the city of Duarte, on the other hand, has links to nearly every story written on the subject).

Being that the council passed the proposal and that the editorial is mostly in favor of the plan, it doesn’t seem coincidental that the city posted the link on its homepage.

This got me thinking. How important are newspaper editorial’s in formalizing your opinions on an issue?

All newspapers write them, politicians often use them in campaigns, and major newspapers like the New York Times can cause considerable controversy or conversation with its editorials.

Do editorials affect your opinions? Do you read newspaper editorials or take them seriously?

Note: Reporters, such as myself, don’t write newspaper editorials and have no input on what they favor/disfavor, and we wouldn’t want to have any. The opinions expressed in editorials are those of the paper’s editorial board.

Email: daniel.tedford@sgvn.com | Twitter: @dgtedford @sgvtribune | Facebook: SGVTribune

The Vulcan hangover (this is far from over)

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Like many others, I have lost some sleep because of the Azusa Rock Quarry mining proposal controversy in Azusa.

My loss of sleep is more of the I had to work until the wee hours of the morning due to a late council meeting variety rather than the “soul searching” Mayor Joe Rocha was speaking of last night, but, nonetheless, it has been a long ride for everyone involved for a myriad of reasons.

Anyway, despite the final decision being handed down last night giving approval to Vulcan’s plan to shift its operations to the west, everyone should already know – this fight is far from over.

Duarte has contended for a long time that they would fight this in court. That decision will come soon.

Then there is the potential referendum from Save Our Canyon.

So, while everyone is feeling the hangover from last night’s/this morning’s decision, recover soon because there is more where that came from.

A preview of tomorrow’s story.

AZUSA – In a decision that many council members said would define their careers representing the city, a new Azusa Rock Quarry mining proposal passed 4-1 Wednesday morning.

After nearly six hours of discussion ended just after midnight Wednesday, the Azusa council reversed an earlier decision and decided to allow mining to go west into Van Tassel Ridge in exchange for an overall better looking hillside, officials said.

“This council is going to be chiseling its name in stone for a project that we are going to have to live with,” councilman Keith Hanks said at the meeting. “We are going to own this one way or the other.”

The proposal also takes mining further away from Azusa’s Mountain Cove community, spares Fish Ridge, adds millions of dollars in revenue to the city, and forces Vulcan to reshape previous mining benches into smaller benches the city hopes will improve an eyesore.

Mayor Joe Rocha, the lone dissenting vote, said he was “heartbroken” by the decision to cut down Van Tassel Ridge.

“Once that ridge is gone, it is gone forever,” he said. “We will have to preserve it in pictures.”

Email: daniel.tedford@sgvn.com | Twitter: @dgtedford @sgvtribune | Facebook: SGVTribune

Duarte asks, like a good neighbor…will Azusa be there?

In a detailed letter thrashing Azusa’s supposed new and improved Azusa Rock Quarry mining plan (facing the City Council tonight for round two) Duarte officials offered a mining plan of their own called the Good Neighbor Plan.

Being that the major disadvantages to the plan is the reduction in mining, and as thus in profit for a major corporation, betting odds say Vulcan has as good a chance of accepting Duarte’s plans as there is Lebron goes to the Clippers.

The council will ponder staff’s newly negotiated terms tonight at 7:30 p.m., as well as Duarte’s questions regarding the freshly inked amendments.

Email: daniel.tedford@sgvn.com | Twitter: @dgtedford @sgvtribune | Facebook: SGVTribune

Vulcan plan changes and staff report released

The Azusa city staff report for Vulcan Materials Co.’s Azusa Rock Quarry mining plan was released late Thursday and includes a series of changes.

The plan is up for reconsideration and a public hearing on the proposal is scheduled for Tuesday night.

A story will follow this weekend, but check out the staff report for yourself.

Expect a long meeting Tuesday following the long weekend. Have a safe and happy Independence Day. See some of you, I’m sure, at the council meeting Tuesday.

Email: daniel.tedford@sgvn.com | Twitter: @dgtedford @sgvtribune | Facebook: SGVTribune

Following Lakers parade the after party is at Azusa City Hall

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If you plan on attending the Azusa City Council meeting Monday night post Lakers victory parade, bring a snack, some comfy shoes and drink plenty of water as it is shaping up to be a long night.

On the agenda for Monday: the first step in reconsideration of Vulcan Materials Azusa Rock Quarry mining proposal, adoption of the 2010/2011 city budget, and a trash rate adjustment.

If you live in Azusa, or Duarte for that matter, and have been too wrapped up in the NBA playoffs for the last few months, (full disclosure: I am a Lakers fan so today has been a very good day. On the other hand, Duarte City Manager Darrell George is a Celtics fan. Send your condolences to Duarte City Hall, 1600 Huntington Drive, Duarte) the mining proposal is the most controversial issue for Azusa in years and is a huge issue for many residents in Duarte who will also be affected.

It was turned down a month ago by the Azusa City Council 3-2, but they recently voted unanimously to reconsider the issue.

The meeting is sure to be filled with Duarte councilmembers, city staff and lawyers, Vulcan’s PR team and employees as well as many Azusa and Duarte citizens who will speak during the meeting’s public comment period.

Azusa staff is expected to give a recommendation on how the city should proceed with the reconsideration process, including setting hearing dates, what issues should be further evaluated, and other aspects of the proposal the council would like to see renegotiated.

The meeting is at 6:30 p.m. Monday at Azusa City Hall Auditorium, 213 E. Foothill Blvd.

Email: daniel.tedford@sgvn.com | Twitter: @dgtedford @sgvtribune | Facebook: SGVTribune

Addressing the Azusa stacked commission allegations

During the Vulcan Mining Proposal frenzy, a lot of allegations, claims, numbers, facts, questionable facts, mud, and dirt have been thrown around by a lot of numerous parties on all sides.

In an article over the weekend (there were actually two Vulcan mining stories this weekend, including this one about taxes ) City Managers in Azusa and Duarte squared off via letters regarding the release of public records by Duarte and any possible settlement deals between Duarte and Vulcan.

Duarte fired back saying the review process for the proposal has been inadequate, the environmental report on the project is insufficient, and that Duarte has been open and honest throughout.

And all those points have their merits.

But one claim by Duarte City Manager Darrell George struck me as misleading, if not wrong.

In arguing that Azusa’s staff has slanted the review process in favor of support for the mining proposal, George laid out a few “key points.”

One of those was that Azusa packed the Planning Commission prior to the vote. From George’s letter:

“Azusa replaced multiple anti-mining planning commissioners in the months leading up to the consideration of the mine expansion project.”

Some background: In the fall of last year, Azusa made the four seated planning commissioners all reapply for their jobs, as well as opened up the positions to applicants. Azusa made it known that part of the move was in an effort to secure a full commission that could assess and vote on the mining issue. (That didn’t work out as they planned as you can see here)

Three of those commissioners had to reapply despite their terms not being up. Commissioner Sandra Rentschler’s term had expired and would have had to reapply anyway.

Of the four commissioners, Christopher Dodson and Jess Alva were reappointed. Rentschler was found to have a conflict of interest by the Fair Political Practices Commission regarding the Vulcan issue as she lives in the Mountain Cove community of Azusa that rests near future mining if the new proposal is NOT approved and the old mining plan is used. She was not reappointed.

Jorge Rosales, who had previously been apart of an anti-mining group Save Van Tassel was also not reappointed.

In addition, one commission seat was vacant. Commissioners Debbie Kindred, Shawn Millner and Jack Lee were appointed as new commissioners.

In my experience and through interviews with nearly all these persons, the only anti-mining activist previously on the commission was Jorge Rosales.

In fact, it could be argued that Rentschler stands to gain from moving the mining away from Mountain Cove with the new proposal. What she would have voted, we may never know.

So claims of “multiple anti-mining” commissioners being removed is questionable, at best.

Secondly, the vote for the proposal from the commission ended 3 to 1 in favor, with commissioner Jack Lee abstaining after he purchased a home in Mountain Cove and suffered from the same conflict as Rentschler.

Alva, Dodson and Millner voted in favor while Kindred was the sole opposition.

If you are keeping score at home, that means of the two new commissioners chosen to replace the “anti-mining” folks, to help support this proposal, the vote was even, 1 to 1. If Azusa was trying to pack the vote with the new commissioners, they vetted them about as well as Obama’s administration looked over some of its nominees tax records.

When I asked Darrell George about this statement, which he issued as a written statement and read aloud at last week’s Duarte City Council meeting, he backed off, instead saying clarification from Azusa was needed.

“It would be nice to hear back and have a reply to that then, because that is the impression we were getting,” George said.