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Quarry Wins City's OK to Remain in Business : Environment: Councilman Stephen Alexander and others say Azusa Rock is polluting the area, however, and vow to keep fighting it.

September 12, 1993|RICHARD WINTON | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

AZUSA — After 10 months of debate, the Azusa City Council last week voted to allow a quarry that is carving into two mountains at the edge of the Angeles National Forest to continue operating.

But before the dust can clear, the battle is likely to heat up again. Environmentalists have already vowed to challenge Azusa Rock when the quarry gets its annual city permit review in December. In the past year, they have organized demonstrations, packed council meetings and rallied environmentalists from around the Southland to their cause.

The protracted fight over the quarry's future began last December, when Azusa resident Jim McJunkin formally appealed to the council to reject Planning Commission approval of Azusa Rock Inc.'s permit to operate the 186-acre quarry at the mouth of Fish Canyon.

Tuesday's 3-2 decision rejecting the appeal came after an outside attorney hired by the council agreed with the city attorney that the city lacked grounds to revoke the quarry's permit and could be sued if it did.

"We're disappointed it (a decision) took so long," said Tom Davis, Azusa Rock's project manager.

Mayor Eugene F. Moses, the deciding vote on the issue, said that although he had campaigned against the quarry for years, he could not risk a lawsuit that could break the city. Moses said there simply was not enough evidence of air or water pollution to close the quarry.

Councilman Stephen J. Alexander said he was elected in 1990 to shut down the quarry and will continue to fight the facility that he says pollutes the local air and water.

"I am disappointed and heartbroken, but with another annual review and a new Planning Commission, it must give us a chance to shut down the quarry," he said.

Councilwoman Cristina Cruz-Madrid, who also voted to close the quarry, said she will seek new restrictions on the quarry when it comes up for its next permit review.

She said the quarry could do more to cut down on dust, and said its trucks and rock piles are not adequately watered down to stop particles from flying into the air.

Councilman John Dangleis, who voted to keep the quarry open, disagreed. "There was no real basis for this appeal and we spent eight months discussing it," he said. Councilman Tony Narranjo also voted to keep the quarry open.

Local anti-quarry group leaders are already preparing another permit challenge. City officials say environmentalists have told them to count on another permit fight.

In December, the Planning Commission recommended renewing the quarry's permit. But McJunkin, a local environmentalist and a leader of Save the Foothills, appealed the decision to the council, which held a series of hearings in February and March.

McJunkin could not be reached for comment on the council decision.

Local environmentalists contend the quarry pollutes the air and restricts access to the scenic Fish Canyon.

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

In March, City Atty. Henry Barbosa advised council members that the city could be sued by Azusa Rock if they closed the quarry without evidence that the firm was violating its operating permit.

At the request of environmentalists, council members asked for a second opinion and spent months fighting over the choice of an attorney, in the end hiring Richard R. Terzian of Los Angeles.

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