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City Seeks 2nd Opinion on Legality of Closing Quarry : Environment: Azusa Rock spokesman criticizes the delay and expense, but City Council is worried by attorney's warning that it could be sued.


AZUSA — The Azusa City Council voted Monday to ask an attorney approved by environmentalists to give a second opinion on whether the city has the power to shut down a quarry that is carving into two mountains at the edge of the Angeles National Forest.

The council voted 3 to 2 to seek outside counsel after interim City Atty. Henry Barbosa warned that Azusa Rock could sue for $20 million to $40 million because the city lacks grounds to revoke the quarry's operating permit.

The council voted to choose the attorney from a list to be provided by anti-quarry activist Jim McJunkin.

"We've talked to several attorneys who are interested in the issue and we'll have names ready for the next (council) meeting," McJunkin said.

Azusa Rock spokesman Tom Davis criticized the decision, saying it will further delay a decision on the operating permit and force the quarry to run up attorney bills when it is meeting all the city's conditions.

"The delay is both frustrating and disappointing," he said. "We were given a clean bill of health at our annual review, with a few minor violations. It's a diversion of everybody's resources, but we accept this as part of doing business."

The city Planning Commission recommended in September that the city renew the quarry's permit. McJunkin appealed that decision and the council has been debating the issue since Feb. 1.

Mayor Eugene F. Moses said he wanted a second opinion before any decision is made on the quarry. He said the fact that the quarry could sue the city and individual council members "is two good reasons for another opinion."

Councilman Stephen J. Alexander, a quarry opponent and attorney, said that "a new opinion will give us a free view of this. I have talked to other attorneys and they have given a different opinion to Mr. Barbosa."

Alexander recommended that a "very pro-active environmental attorney" provide the opinion. He said if that attorney agrees Barbosa is right, then the council should vote to support the quarry.

Councilwoman Cristina Cruz-Madrid also voted to seek outside counsel.

Councilman John Dangleis, who voted against an additional opinion with Councilman Anthony Naranjo, noted that previous Azusa city attorneys supported Barbosa's view.

Environmentalists contend that the 186-acre quarry site at the mouth of Fish Canyon pollutes the air, damages local water and restricts access to the scenic canyon.

Azusa Rock maintains that the quarry provides jobs and revenue for the city, that past violations are minor and have been corrected quickly, and that quarry opponents have stirred up concerns based on false allegations and misinformation.

The council is scheduled to select the outside attorney at its March 29 meeting. Barbosa will continue as the interim city attorney and provide opinions on all other issues.

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