29 Palms Rejects Batch Plant Near Residences

TWENTYNINE PALMS—A divided city council this month rejected Robertson’s Ready Mix’s request for the annexation of 150 acres into the city and a zone change on 37.5 of those acres.
Robertson’s Ready Mix wants to construct a batch plant on a portion of the 150 acres the company is in the process of acquiring at the northeast corner of Utah Trail and Valle Vista Road. The company had requested that the property, which is currently unincorporated county land, be annexed by Twentynine Palms. In processing Robertson’s request, the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) requested that the city change its current designated zoning in the area, which lies in Twentynine Palms’ sphere of influence, from rural residential to industrial.
Robertson’s had initially sought to have all 150 acres pre-zoned as industrial, but limited that request to the 37.5 acres needed to accommodate the batch plant, after coming before the planning commission in January with regard to the project proposal. The planning commission, after hearing protests about the plant and the proposed zone change, recommended that the project and zone change request be downscaled.
The council voted on February 14 to respond to Robertson’s request relayed though LAFCO by voting to pre-zone the entire property as rural residential, leaving the county’s current land designation in place. Currently, the land is zoned for residential use with a density of one house per five acres.
According to Robertson’s spokeswoman, Christine Goeyvaerts, the operation of the batch plant will not intrude on surrounding properties and the company will sprinkle water on the property to anchor the dirt and prevent dust from being stirred up. Goeyvaerts said the company was not trying to do an end run on Twentynine Palms by obtaining an operating permit through the county and was instead seeking to annex the property into the city first, so that local planning authority could be brought to bear on the project. She said there were numerous advantages to having the city annex the property.
Goeyvaerts said that her company had discussions with the California Department of Toxic Substances Control with regard to the batch plant operation and that Robertson’s would comply with the Department of Toxic Substance Control’s guidelines for the use of materials and chemicals at the plant and meet standards imposed by the Air Quality Management District.
“Annexing the property into the city of Twentynine Palms will allow us to be part of the community,” Goeyvaerts said. “We plan to be in the community for a long time.”
Local residents, however, were skittish over the close proximity of the proposed industrial operation to residential uses.
David Blake, a homeowner who lives roughly a half mile from the proposed batch plant on a homestead established by his father in 1948, said the plant would be “too close to the residential area. They’re going to choke the life out of us there. This [plant] is what we’re going to have to be looking at for the rest of our lives.”
Lloyd Johnson protested that he was not given adequate notice by Robertson’s Ready Mix nor by the county of a zone change request or the proposal for a concrete batch plant on the property. He questioned whether the batch plant would remain contained on the 37.5 acres and suggested the plant would be expanded in the future. “Why do they want to purchase so much more property than is necessary for the considered use?” Johnson asked.
Councilmen Joel Klink and Jay Corbin said it would be more desirable for Robertson’s to locate its batch plant in the city’s currently designated industrial area, which is well insulated from residences. Klink said putting the batch plant near the corner of Utah Trail and Valle Vista Road was “spot zoning. I just don’t feel it’s the right position out there at this time.”
Corbin said the proposal was inconsistent with the city’s general plan, which calls for industrial uses to be separated from residential land uses. “I don’t know how we can approve your project and say we’re complying with the general plan The residents who spoke here tonight bought land in a residential area. They had no reasonable expectation we would bring industrial land or an industrial park into their neighborhood.”
City manager Richard Warne told the council that even though it might recommend to the county that the current residential zoning on the property be maintained, if the city chose not to annex the property the ultimate land use authority would remain with the county and the county could approve the batch plant.
On a 3-2 vote, with mayor John Cole and Councilman Danny Mintz dissenting, the council denied the general plan amendment request.

Leave a Reply