Mining operation seeks Board’s recognition of `vested rights’ to expand

RIVERSIDE (CNS) – A mining company that currently operates a 132-acre
site south of Corona will ask the Board of Supervisors today to consider its
application of “vested rights” to adjacent land — potentially expanding its
surface mining operations to almost 1,000 acres, which many area residents
oppose.

Robertson’s Ready Mix is seeking confirmation of its rights to 792
acres that surround its original 132-acre site on a hillside that has been used
for extraction of rocks for decades south of Cajalco Road and east of
Interstate 15, on the boundaries of the Dos Lagos Golf Course, in what’s known
as the Temescal Wash, an unincorporated part of Riverside County.

“RRM’s vested activity is aggregate mining, which includes
excavation, crushing, washing, sorting, stockpiling, loading, transporting and
otherwise managing an aggregate surface and utilizing the equipment to do so,”
according to a Department of Planning statement posted to the board’s Tuesday
agenda.

Aggregate is used to build and improve roads, support dams and levees,
construct railroads, as well as for commercial and residential construction
projects.

Planning staff are recommending that the board deny the applicant’s
confirmation of vested rights on 657 of the 792 acres, saying in a report that
Robertson’s Ready Mix “has not shown by a preponderance of evidence that their
predecessors in interest manifested an intent to extend surface mining
activities … to the entire proposed vested rights area as of the 1949 vesting
date.”

Stone quarries were first established in the area in the 1930s.
According to county staff, changes in ownership of the parcels at issue raise
doubts as to the legitimacy of RRM’s claims.

“The lack of mining on the property for the past 30 years, and the
substantial investments exploring residential development constitute clear and
convincing evidence of an intention … to abandon mining operations (on the
657 acres),” according to the Department of Planning.

The California Surface Mining Control & Reclamation Act of 1975 and
Riverside County Ordinance No. 555, approved in 2019, are the primary laws
governing mining operations locally and provide guidelines for determining
vested rights.

RRM said in documents submitted to the board that “the geological and
historical context of the mineral region” is vital in recognizing a vested
right, and according to the company, the area in question has been rich in pit
mines for almost the last century.

“Under the well-established principle that vested rights are property
rights that attach to and run with the land, RRM … has succeeded to the
vested rights derived from the surface mining operations established under
(prior) ownership,” the company said.

Residents with homes surrounding the existing mine expressed dismay
that it might be expanded.

“We are original homeowners at Dos Lagos and have had to tolerate and
endure RRM’s mining business for 16 years,” Bob Schuch wrote in an email
to the Department of Planning. “The mine blasts have cracked our concrete,
stucco, pipes and have caused considerable damage to our homes. The constant
dirt we breath in, the construction noise around the clock is nonstop.”

Della Sewell said that her home backs up to the Dos Lagos Golf Course,
and “we have had several problems and damages to our home due to the
current mining, which include a $10,000 bill due to broken water pipes.”

“There are several cracks in concrete due to mining in this area, not
to mention the monthly earthquake-like activity,” she said.

Justin and Cynara Hutchinson, who reside on Cabot Drive, wrote an
extensive email, stating the “mining and explosions unreasonably interfere
with the health, safety, welfare, use and enjoyment of our property and the
surrounding public at large.”

“When we first purchased the home, we were told they would only be
mining once a month, yet Robertson’s Ready Mix oftentimes mines and creates
explosions several times a week,” the couple said. “My wife and I work from
home, and this disturbance substantially interferes with the enjoyment and use
of my property.”

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