LAH council rejects pressure to drop Lehigh brief

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The Los Altos Hills City Council last week rebuffed a request by Lehigh Southwest Cement Co. to end its participation in an amicus brief filed by Bay Area for Clean Environment.

Despite hearing from a representative from Lehigh Southwest Cement Co., the Los Altos Hills City Council stood by its decision to join an amicus curiae brief filed by Bay Area for Clean Environment (BACE).

The brief requested a repeal of the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors’ decision allowing Lehigh to grow its operations without oversight. If the ruling stands, the council is concerned that health and environmental consequences might follow.

Disregarding what Councilman Rich Larsen defined as “officious scare tactics” by Lehigh representative John Bruno, councilmembers not only reaffirmed their support for the appeal, but also approved a budget of up to $7,500 for their share of legal fees.

Bruno accused BACE of operating on an expired state license and the city of Cupertino of a possible ethical conflict if its council voted to support the amicus brief.

“It’s baseless,” said Bruno of the appeal against the county’s decision. “You enjoy a good working relationship with the county, and this doesn’t seem like the best course of action.”

“‘Do you really want to go against the supervisors? You have such a good relationship with them,’” echoed Los Altos Hills resident Jitze Couperus, quoting Bruno’s statements. “This is a not-so-clearly-veiled warning.”

Dispelling any concerns of possible repercussions, Los Altos Hills City Attorney Steven Mattas noted that the aforementioned issues “do not affect (the council’s) ability to support or not support this legal brief.”

Mayor Gary Waldeck rebutted Bruno’s characterization of BACE, noting that the organization’s state license was up to date.

Citing Los Altos City Councilwoman Megan Satterlee’s hesitance to endorse the brief, Los Altos Hills Councilwoman Courtenay C. Corrigan wavered on her initial support. In response, Waldeck noted that Satterlee ultimately supported the brief because it was the only recourse available to prevent unrestricted future quarry development.

Although Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian was invited to two council meetings to discuss the county supervisors’ decision, he did not respond to requests, according to Waldeck.

Larsen suggested that town voters might attract the supervisors’ attention even if the brief did not.

“The real point is to send a message to the supervisors,” he said. “We’re talking about several thousands (of voters). … This is the real power of this action.”

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