Board of Supervisors to reassess ‘good neighbor policy’ to guide warehouse projects

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RIVERSIDE (CNS) – Riverside County supervisors tomorrow will try, for the third time, to settle differences over a proposed “Good Neighbor Policy” that would establish criteria for gauging the compatibility of future logistics center projects with the unincorporated communities where they’re intended to be built.

During previous meetings in August and October, the Board of Supervisors could not find middle ground to shape the policy into an acceptable form.

However, one of the chief complaints against the proposal cited by residents who addressed it last month appears to have been resolved – increasing project setback space from 300 feet to 1,000 feet. This would widen the buffer intended to shield so-called “sensitive receptors” – daycare centers, hospitals, churches, nursing homes, parks and playgrounds – from noxious truck fumes, noises and traffic stemming from warehousing activity.

Board Chairman Kevin Jeffries was keen on the modification and directed the Transportation & Land Management Agency to include it in the revision that will go before the board Tuesday.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra sent a letter earlier this month encouraging the county to implement the policy, saying the Inland Empire needs a “robust set of minimum standards” that will aid stakeholders in deciding what projects work, which ones won’t and what requirements to impose when they’re authorized.

“A good neighbor policy would … ensure that the facilities, in fact, benefit the communities where they are located,” according to the letter. “The county’s good neighbor policy would be a step in the right direction toward more thoughtful, health-protective and just warehouse development countywide. The good neighbor policy could also become a model for other jurisdictions that are grappling with similar issues.”

Becerra said the buffers for sensitive receptors and mitigation of commercial truck engine emissions figured heavily in his office’s evaluation of the county proposal. He also emphasized the policy should stress enhanced “community engagement” to determine what those people living on the perimeter of a project think about it.

The policy would generally focus on projects in excess of 250,000 square feet, but it would not supplant requirements under the California Environmental Quality Act.

According to the TLMA, the policy’s aim would be to ensure qualify-of-life issues are addressed “from the initial design process, to construction and through operations.”

TLMA officials would be responsible for gathering all pertinent details in the vetting stage of a proposed development and furnishing the county Planning Commission and the board as and when necessary to help both bodies make appropriate decisions, TLMA Director Juan Perez said.

Contractors would be required to keep all construction equipment parked in designated areas, away from residences, and during building activity, truckers would be directed not to idle for more than five minutes at a time.

Facilities would need to be designed so that “on-site queueing of commercial trucks … is away from sensitive receptors,” with minimal spillover of truck traffic onto residential streets.

The policy would also push for berms, trees and other landscaping to be installed that screens receptors from warehousing activity, which typically runs 24 hours.

Lighting and public address systems would have to be designed with the objective of creating the least disturbance, and routes would need to be laid out with the goal of putting trucks on freeways and highways quickly, minimizing time on surface streets.

The proposal specifies that facilities should be constructed so electrical panels and conduits are available for refrigerated and other trucks that need power to keep cargo holds climate-controlled – and “eliminate idling of main or auxiliary engines during the loading and unloading process.”

During the construction phase, heavy-duty trucks, graders and excavators would be required to use California Air Resources Board-compliant 2010 or newer low emission engines.

The policy would further encourage developers to look at ways of improving public infrastructure, including streets, in the immediate vicinity of each project as an offset to the impact of construction.

At the board’s Oct. 22 meeting, Supervisor Jeff Hewitt said he disliked the proposal’s potential to be interpreted as unfriendly to business by imposing too many hurdles, including a requirement that would limit developers to grading a maximum 10 acres – known as a “disturbance area” – daily at a construction site to contain dust dispersal.

The National Association for Industrial & Office Parks – NAIOP – submitted a letter last month opposing the policy because of its vagueness on several points.