City official says Blackwater permits cannot be appealed
Union Tribune (2008-05-15) Tanya Mannes
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By Tanya Mannes
UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER
May 15, 2008
OTAY MESA – An activist paid $100 this week to file a formal appeal of Blackwater Worldwide's permits for an indoor military training center in Otay Mesa.
But now a San Diego official says the city shouldn't have accepted Raymond Lutz
“There's no ability to appeal it,” said Kelly Broughton, the city's development services director.
Blackwater has leased an industrial building near Brown Field where it will operate a shooting range, a simulated Navy ship and classrooms. The site was zoned for a vocational school, and city staff decided Blackwater's training of Navy personnel qualified.
In March, the company obtained three permits for indoor improvements. Under city code, such permits are not subject to public hearings or appeals, Broughton said.
But Lutz said, “If an applicant comes in and lies about what they are doing, I think the public should be able to appeal that, regardless of the rules that might be in place at the city about handling paperwork.”
Brian Bonfiglio, a Blackwater vice president, has said the company followed the law.
Lutz, an El Cajon resident, worked to block Blackwater's proposal for an 824-acre training center in Potrero. In March, Blackwater pulled its Potrero proposal, citing noise tests that showed gunfire at the facility would exceed local standards.
The military contractor is now focused on remodeling the 61,600-square-foot warehouse in Otay Mesa so it can open in June. Its permits were obtained through two companies it does business with: Southwest Law Enforcement and Raven Development Group.
Local leaders, including Rep. Bob Filner
, D-San Diego, criticized the plan, citing concerns of the lack of public notice and diplomatic problems with the facility's location three blocks from the U.S.-Mexico border.
On May 5, Mayor Jerry Sanders ordered an investigation into the permits and requested a report by May 23. Broughton said yesterday that the internal review could lead to Blackwater's permits being revoked, after a public hearing, if it turns out that staff made mistakes or relied on bad information.