ONTARIO - Despite pleas from a local group that more environmental review was needed, the City Council has voted unanimously to uphold a Planning Commission decision to revise a specific plan for a 36-acre development.

The Planning Commission in October approved an amendment to the Festival Specific Plan for Brookfield Homes' proposed housing project and a neighboring 5.5-acre commercial development.

The project will have 259 homes and townhomes. The amendment involved reducing office space to make the development predominantly residential.

The Inland Oversight Committee appealed the amendment, saying the environmental report was inadequate.

City Planning Director Jerry Blum told the council Tuesday night that Ontario followed all necessary guidelines to make sure the project had no environmental impacts.

Blum added that the committee did not file its appeal by the deadlines under state environmental state laws.

"We believe all the proper environmental documentation has occurred," Blum said.

An environmental study was conducted on July 31, in which a list of species and fauna were reviewed, Blum said. The report support the city's claim that there are no biological impacts from the project.

The Inland Oversight Committee broke its appeal into six sections, primarily taking issue with the environmental documentation, saying the project was not subjected to the same state environmental reviews.

Attorney Cory Briggs addressed the council on behalf of the Inland Oversight Committee. Members have asked to remain anonymous.

Briggs told the council he had new information not previously considered in the original environment report that demonstrated the project will cause an impact on the community.

Among the impacts listed by Briggs were increases to greenhouse gases and noise, and a negative impact on public services and water resources.

John Ramirez of Brookfield Residential, however, agreed with the staff report that it was too late to file the appeal, which he said should have been filed late last year.

Briggs asked the council to postpone its decision because it did not have all the necessary information to make a priopoer decision, including a CD that he said contained new documents detailing the environmental impacts the project would create.

"None of the environmental documentation has been provided to you," he said. "So there's no way you can actually rule fairly on the appeal tonight."

Blum asked the council take a 10-minute break so that city staff and Brookfield officials could review the document.

The meeting became a little tense when Briggs argued with the mayor's decision to support to the staff's request for the break. Briggs became upset and argued against taking the break.

"Mr. Briggs, you are not running the meeting - I am," Mayor Paul Leon said.

After reviewing the documents, Blum recommended that the council approve the Planning Commission's decision and deny the appeal. The council agreed without much discussion.

As the council was getting ready to move onto another subject, Briggs stood up and asked the council to reconsider the item.

Leon had to talk over Briggs to tell him the council was moving on to the next item on the agenda.

liset.marquez@inlandnewspapers.com

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