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Sandstone Canyon Development Plan OKd


In a decision that bewildered even some who voted for it, the Diamond Bar City Council last week approved a development plan that would allow Arciero & Sons to begin building on a portion of Sandstone Canyon that has been locked in controversy for several years.

"We spent over an hour, and the developer indicated he didn't want any more continuances, so out of frustration, I guess, I voted in support of the project," Mayor Gary Werner said. "Why did I vote that way? Good question. It's not a project that I like, and yet I voted for it."

The council approved 91 houses and a commercial development on the property.

The next night, the board of Walnut Valley Unified School District voted to purchase adjacent land. That land will be used to deposit dirt that will be excavated from the site of the new South Pointe Middle School building, which had been delayed because of the debate over the canyon project.

The Arciero development had been controversial because it involved filling the canyon with dirt. The fate of the new school had been tied to the development because the extra dirt from the school project was to go on the Arciero land.

The sudden decisions appear to settle the contentious battle over the canyon. But both school board and City Council members say it was the other agency's procrastination that forced the eleventh-hour votes.

Pressure from the school district forced the council to approve the development, believing it would provide a space for the dirt removed from the school site, council members said.

School district officials, however, claimed the council's inability to reach a timely decision threatened the future of South Pointe Middle School and led the board to purchase the other piece of land.

The proposal approved last week would allow some filling of the canyon; Arciero & Sons won approval to build concrete culverts over the northern end of the Sandstone Canyon stream, and may remove historic oaks from the canyon bottom, City Manager Terrence Belanger said. However, the dirt will not come from the school construction.

"I felt that there was a lot more dealing that we could work on that property to make it more environmentally sensitive," said Diamond Bar Councilman Clair Harmony, who voted against the plan.

Councilwoman Eileen Ansari, who opposed previous proposals, made the motion to approve the one presented last week. "Mr. Arciero had been trying to build on his property since 1983," she said.

Ansari said she favored this plan over others, but added that the council made the hasty decision with reluctance. Phyllis Papen seconded the motion, and Werner cast the deciding vote.

The developer still needs federal and state permits that could take up to nine months. The developers could not be reached for comment.

The district had been in danger of losing $8 million in state funding for the new South Pointe Middle School building if it did not begin construction immediately, school board President Larry Redinger said.

He said the school district intends to use the land in a way that will cause the least environmental disruption, dumping it on 10 acres of high ground and leaving the rest undeveloped.

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