Plans to build the new Coachella Valley arena near Palm Desert have been approved by the planning commission after environmental and zoning changes. But environmentalist advocates are speaking out against the project asking the planning commission to take a look at the grading process.
The approval for the new ice hockey arena does not come without controversy as activists have pointed out sustainability and environmental issues.
“Freezing the ice is pretty energy-intensive, what have you done to reduce the energy demands for that,” said Gary Thornhill, Planning Commissioner with Riverside County.
“There’s two ice sheets, the main arena ice sheet and then the hockey training facility which will be home to the American hockey league team on the north side. they’re both designed for maximum efficiency using the ammonia they’re frozen all the time, so once you’re done, you’re surfacing, there is very little energy draw to keep them frozen,” said Tony Locacciato, Urban and Regional Planner.
The Supporters Alliance For Environmental Responsibility has asked that the commission not approve the project until an environmental impact report has been prepared, also pointing out issues with the project’s grading.
“On April 22nd we found out that grading had started and that was just one day after this commission had continued the matter. the county code expressly prohibits grading prior to approval of a tentative map, the tentative map is before you today, and it has not been approved so grading should not be happening,” said Bryan Flynn with Supporters Alliance For Environmental Responsibility
The city of Palm Desert had reserves about the arena but changed its stance after developers agreed to pay for a new fire truck and portions of a new fire station along with traffic lights and other equipment.
“With the addition of conditions for approval presented to the commission today that relate to impacts for fire services, police services, and traffic management, the city can support the project with the traditional conditions,” said Eric Ceja, Director of Developmental Services, city of Palm Desert.
“I feel that the project is substantially, is creating substantially less impact under the new proposal than the old project,” added Thornhill.
Riverside County Board of Supervisors will now have to ratify the votes by the planning commission, which is expected to happen on May 25th.