A group calling itself Calaveras Citizens for Responsible Govern-ment presented District 5 Supervisor Steve Kearney with a petition to recall on April 7. The group members are Clyde Clapp, Lora Most, John Lutz, Penny Low and Janice Bassett. They assured me that the recall is “issue-oriented.” Clapp said, “We are drawing support from both ends of the political spectrum.” Both Clapp and Lutz voted for Kearney. The citizens are not advancing a candidate to replace Kearney in part because they wouldn’t be able to agree on whom that candidate should be, but they expect a candidate will come forward.

The primary issue that prompted the recall is the proposed asphalt plant in District 5 at Hogan Quarry. The board of supervisors voted 3-2 on appeal that the asphalt plant can begin operating without benefit of a conditional use permit, in spite of the fact that hazardous materials will be used at the plant. In the language of the recall petition, “Supervisor Kearney voted against the recommendation of Calaveras County Environmental Health Director Jason Boetzer and Dr. Dean Kelaita (Calaveras County health officer) who recommended the asphalt plant have an environmental impact report and a conditional use permit.”

Since service of the recall petition, the Enterprise has reported that there will be a full environmental impact report done on the proposed asphalt plant in compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act in order to issue an authority to construct, which is required by the California Air Resources Board when pollutants may be emitted “from a stationary source into the atmosphere.”

The county air pollution control district will be the lead agency for the environmental impact report. In spite of this environmental impact report, the citizens plan to move forward with the recall effort.

“The issue still stands. He voted for the asphalt plant without a conditional use permit,” Bassett said.

It had been generally thought, including by the recall group, that the environmental review associated with the authority to construct would be narrowly focused on impacts to air quality, as there was no clarification forthcoming from county officials. However, I recently received a copy of a Feb. 19 letter from Planning Director Peter Maurer to Diane Kindermann, an attorney for the asphalt plant proponents. Maurer wrote, “We intend to prepare a full-scope EIR that will address all potential impacts, not just those limited to air quality.” Given the number of appeals and the intense public interest in the project, it is surprising that this letter was not more widely circulated at the time.

Clarification of the exact nature of the environmental review associated with the authority to construct is important because one of the biggest public concerns has been the lack of an EIR to address the full range of potential impacts from the asphalt plant such as impacts to aesthetics, air quality, biological resources, water quality, noise, recreation, roads and traffic. Any EIR would require mitigation of adverse impacts and, thus, provide some protection for local residents and their property.

I emailed Supervisor Kearney for comment but didn’t get a response. In an April 9 press release, he said that environmental review under the California Environmental Quality Act “is to be completed before the authority to construct permit is issued” for the asphalt plant, which is true.

The secondary recall issue is the supervisors’ decision, again on appeal, to remove the off-site improvements to Olive Orchard Road that were required in 2004 for approval of Olive Orchard Estates, a housing development in District 5. Kearney supported removal of the required road improvements. According to Clapp, the common denominator between the asphalt plant and the road is public safety. The recall petition says, “Residents of District 5 cannot tolerate the complete disregard of our health, safety and well-being by our own supervisor.”

The citizens group was surprised by Kearney’s claim that the group engages in “‘economic terrorism.’” Clapp pointed out that the 25 signers of the recall petition represent a “cross-section” of the community including business people. The citizens were also perplexed by Kearney’s assertion that their group is “not new.” Lutz said they have been “working together for a couple of months.” According to Bassett, Kearney missed the deadline to put a response on the recall petition. The citizens will begin circulating petitions at the end of the month. Petitions will also be available at the office of Dr. Benedicto Estoesta in Valley Springs.

Muriel Zeller is a poet, writer and Valley Springs resident. She is a member of the Calaveras Planning Coalition and former member of the board of directors for MyValleySprings.com. Contact her at murielzeller52@gmail.com.

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