Lawsuit threat halts demo of Big Gun Quarry

Rocklin proposes environmental impact report on historic site
By: Jon Brines, Placer Herald Correspondent
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Nearly a month after the demolition of the Big Gun Quarry sheds was ordered, the city of Rocklin has agreed to wait. The decision came after City Attorney Russell Hildebrand received a letter last week from Loomis attorney Dan Mooney, who threatened a lawsuit on behalf of the Rocklin Heritage Committee. “The (Rocklin Redevelopment) Agency’s approval of the project without having prepared an environmental document, whether that is an EIR or a mitigated negative declaration, constitutes a flagrant violation of California Environmental Quality Act. As such, the Agency must immediately vacate and rescind the approval of the project and suspend all demolition and removal activities until the Agency complies with CEQA,” Mooney wrote. The letter goes on to cite several examples of case law that suggest the city should have handled the site differently because of its historic nature. The Rocklin Historical Society considers the buildings on Pacific Street to be the only remaining work buildings representing 150 years of granite mining in the city. The quarry sheds, which were approved for demolition by the city council on Sept 27, were the site where granite and other materials were prepared for the State Capitol building as well as the iconic Transamerica building in San Francisco. The city has taken the position that the sheds are a safety hazard. Their plan was to deconstruct the sheds and save the lumber for potential future development of the site. Following Tuesday night’s closed session, city council members agreed to order a focused environmental impact report on the site per the committee’s request, Hildebrand reported. “We do agree a focused environmental impact report must be prepared before any further demolition of the historic sheds takes place,” Hildebrand said. “When that is completed and we’ve done all of the environmental review, we will revisit the demolition of the historic sheds or the preservation as it may turn out.” The new environmental review could take months to prepare, according to city officials. The city stopped short of rescinding the previous resolution, which had been issued as a result of the abolition of redevelopment agencies statewide. When Gov. Jerry Brown scrapped the agencies in an effort to save money, the California League of Cities sued alleging the move was unconstitutional. The State Supreme Court is expected to announce its ruling by Jan. 15. The outcome of the ruling could put the Big Gun Quarry site in the hands of the state because $1 million of Rocklin’s redevelopment funds were used to purchase the site from a private owner last year. If the city is able to keep the site, the historical society is hopeful for a future development deal that would preserve the historic site and sheds. Staff is expected to present a development plan of its own at the Nov. 1 city council workshop. In the interim, City Manager Rick Horst reminds residents that the property is not open to the public. "In the interests of safety and preservation of historic artifacts no trespassing is allowed," he said.