Riverside County supervisors defers decision on ‘good neighbor policy’ for unincorporated communities

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RIVERSIDE (CNS) – Seeking to resolve issues with several provisions, Riverside County supervisors today deferred a vote on a proposed “Good Neighbor Policy” that would establish criteria to gauge the compatibility of logistics center projects with unincorporated communities, and ensure future facilities use technology that reduces noise and pollution.

“I believe in private property rights, but it’s on both sides of the fence that we’re trying to strike a balance,” Board of Supervisors Chairman Kevin Jeffries said. “This policy needs more teeth in it. It just doesn’t have the teeth to protect residents.”

What was to be the second and final hearing on the policy turned into a litany of complaints about what it did or did not contain, leading the board to direct Transportation & Land Management Agency Director Juan Perez to bring it back in modified form for additional scrutiny on Nov. 19.

“My biggest problem with this is the disclaimer that a hearing body has the ability to ‘deviate from the policy,'” Supervisor Jeff Hewitt said. “Why would we have a policy for investors to adhere to and then say they can deviate from it?”

Hewitt also cited 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.

“This document has good intentions, but the road to ruin is paved with good intentions. This stifles future business opportunities,” he said.

The National Association for Industrial & Office Parks – NAIOP – submitted a letter opposing the policy because of its vagueness on several points, and association attorney John Shardlow said that if requirements are put in place, they need to be linked to “performance standards,” which he couldn’t identify in the proposal.

Several people addressed the board regarding the policy, expressing a desire for it to mandate a 1,000-foot buffer zone or setback from homes to lessen the impact of developments on neighborhoods.

The proposal underscores the need to protect “sensitive receptors,” identified as residences, daycare centers, hospitals, nursing homes, parks and playgrounds. It would direct that developers build no closer than 300 feet from a warehouse dock door to the house or other building that defines a sensitive receptor.

Perez said the 300-foot setback is fair.

“Some say it’s too much, others that it’s not enough,” he told the board. “We think it’s reasonable, and it goes much farther than what any other agency has now.”

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, 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 shields receptors from warehousing activity, which typically runs 24 hours.

Lighting and public address systems would need 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. However, that was another of Hewitt’s peeves.

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.

Mammoth warehousing projects have drawn criticism over the years, stemming from traffic congestion, pollution, noise and other concerns. A court-issued injunction recently stopped construction of the World Logistics Center in Moreno Valley, based on evidence of a possible flawed environmental impact report tied to the 40 million-square-foot development.

A group of Cherry Valley and Beaumont residents last year attempted, unsuccessfully, to prevent the 230-acre San Gorgonio Crossing Project from moving forward. Jeffries cast the lone vote against the colossal warehouse.

According to the chairman, dozens of warehousing projects are planned in his First District over the next decade, mainly along Interstate 215 in the Perris Valley.

5:30 p.m. Tuesday: This story was updated with information about the Board of Supervisors’ decision.