February 26, 2010
County requests EIR for controversial Sufism Reoriented Sanctuary project
County senior planner LaShun Cross says the county came to a decision to ask for the maximum scrutiny of the project’s environmental impact because of the project’s size and environmental impact concerns expressed by residents.
That underground construction is one of many environmental concerns raised by neighbors. With 46,000-square-feet of the sanctuary underground, the excavation will need more than 3,400 dump truck loads over five months, according to estimates by Save Our Saranap, the organization opposing the project as it is currently planned. Rather than “sit lightly on the earth,” as Sufism claims, the project would crash onto the earth, “like a meteor, complete with crater,”
SOS members also question the claim about the project “nestling in a glade of trees,” To build it, SOS members say, the plan calls for the destruction of all vegetation and buildings on the site and the removal of all 42 existing trees, including six heritage oaks.
Sufism Reoriented leaders have agreed to the county’s request for an EIR, even though the study will delay the project by up to four months and cost them some money. Actually in a statement they made in their most recent newsletter, they make it sound as though they approached the county and volunteered to do the EIR, despite believing that a smaller environmental study would suffice.
That’s not how Cross described the decision-making process over the EIR. Whatever.
The Sufism leaders say: “We have engaged professional consultants who have prepared various CEQA-related studies. … Based on these studies, our consultants have concluded that any impacts from our project will be relatively light. … Of course an applicant would not normally request an EIR if it were unlikely to be required. But we have concluded that it is in our best interest for the county to proceed with an EIR at this time, rather than the smaller environmental study that they might choose to do for a project like ours with a low likelihood of environmental impact.
The leaders go on to say that cost to do the EIR now could save potentially larger costs down the line. The EIR could also give “county decision makers more flexibility to weigh and balance factual evidence to arrive at the best possible decision” and would offer reassurance to all “our neighbors.