Blackwater pulls application for Potrero training center
Union Tribune (2008-03-07) Anne Krueger
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By Anne Krueger
UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER
2:33 p.m. March 7, 2008
Blackwater Worldwide officials have announced they are pulling their application to build a training center on an 824-acre site in the East County community of Potrero.
The North Carolina-based company dropped off a letter to the county planning department today notifying officials of their decision not to pursue plans for the project on a former chicken and cattle ranch.
“Although our project would have brought a great benefit to San Diego County, – providing local, state, and federal law enforcement with access to low-cost superior training facilities while bringing much-needed jobs to the area – the proposed site does not meet our business objectives at this time,” states the letter from Blackwater vice president Brian Bonfiglio.
Bonfiglio said noise tests the company conducted at the site did not meet county standards, and the cost of reducing the noise was too expensive. He said Blackwater had spent well over $1 million in its effort to get government approval for the site.
The company's effort to build the training center for law enforcement and the military met with a storm of criticism. Opponents said the training center would bring more noise and traffic to the quiet rural community, and others were critical of Blackwater's role as a military contractor in Iraq.
Bonfiglio said opposition to the project played no role in the company's decision to withdraw the project.
Opponents of the project were stunned and pleased to hear the news.
“It's great news for the community of Potrero,” said Carl Meyer, the recently-elected chairman of the Potrero planning group. “I think Potrero will start to rejoice tonight. We'll have a party.”
Raymond Lutz, an El Cajon-area resident who created an anti-Blackwater Web site, said he's glad the controversy is over.
“This poor community has been put through enough,” he said. “There's a lot of people who were friends who were on different sides of the issue.”
Anne Krueger: (619) 593-4962; firstname.lastname@example.org