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City mulls its efforts to save historic quarry

Council to hold public hearing on former redevelopment properties
By: Jon Brines, Placer Herald Correspondent
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The public saga over the historic Big Gun Quarry may be turning a corner. City officials are indicating they’re now thinking about saving the quarry from the state mandated sale of properties purchased by the former Rocklin Redevelopment Agency. “I think that would be an excellent idea,” Mayor Brett Storey said. “Can we legally do it? I don’t know the answer to that.” The issue is how to get the Big Gun Quarry on the save list of properties designated “for government use,” including the Rocklin Library, the Rocklin History Museum and Old St. Mary’s Chapel. “Any rational human being would see these meet the (state’s) criteria,” Storey said. The problem is city officials have contended they purchased the century old quarry site for development and commercial use of the potentially lucrative frontage along Pacific Street. The historical focus came later, reported City Manager Rick Horst. “The reason we did not want to bundle it all together is because (the three) are cut and dry and the (quarry) could be somewhat convoluted and could take a while,” Horst said. “I don’t want an all-or-nothing proposition here.” In the interim, the State Department of Finance, which is governing what is saved and what is sold, won’t answer the city’s questions about the process until after January and yet wants the properties sold as soon as possible. “It’s all up in the air. We have to figure out the interpretation of the rules,” Storey said. “We’ll hopefully learn something with the first set we send in, and then we’ll have to make a determination (about the quarry).” The city is considering holding a public hearing on the save list during an upcoming City Council meeting before the list is officially submitted to the state. The state will then have to approve “government use” for the three properties within 60 days. “It’s not in the city council’s hands. The only thing we have to do is to try to disposition it according to the law and then it sits in the state,” Storey said. Storey hailed an idea presented by the Rocklin Historical Society to the Rocklin Oversight Board at their Aug. 27 meeting. The idea submitted was to split the quarry property up – selling the commercial parcel and preserving the century old buildings and quarry behind them. “The essence of our idea is since the quarry property has been documented as having been purchased for heritage purposes, public purposes and commercial purposes it may very well make sense to split the property and allow the commercial to go forward,” Rocklin Historical Society member Gene Johnson said. Rocklin Historical Society Board member Jeff Foltz agreed with Johnson’s proposal. “I’ve looked through all the paperwork and I could make some good arguments for public use for the (quarry) property,” he said. However, City Attorney Russell Hildebrand indicated the split may be problematic under the current law. “I’m not sure anyone has a legal authority to sign a deed or sign a map that would split any property. It’s just another hurdle or complication,” Hildebrand said. Horst indicated the problem could go away if there was an offer on the table from a potential buyer. That, too, would have to be approved by the state. “By legislation we have to sell the properties. The state doesn’t care who buys it. Whether it is a group of citizens, historical society or the city or any other group,” Horst said. “I think (the state) might take something less than current value because they want the cash today, not 5 years from now.” The city paid $1 million in 2010 for the 7.2 acre site, which is now on the National Register of Historic Places, but the historic work shed sits on six-tenths of an acre, according to Horst. Granite from the quarry was used in the State Capitol, Transamerica pyramid building as well as throughout San Francisco following the 1906 earthquake. Storey encouraged any potential buyers to come forward because, in his opinion, the city is tapped out when it comes to financial support of the quarry. “At this point I think only fundraising is the only way that anything is going to happen to that. I can’t picture the city spending money on that. It’s not viable right now,” Storey said. Elaine O’Deegan, a member of the Rocklin Heritage Committee, hopes something will give so that the quarry can be preserved. “It’s our namesake and it is something they should think about saving,” she said.