Blackwater Abandons Plan For California Training Facility

| Sun Mar. 9, 2008 11:21 AM EDT

Almost a year after Blackwater scrapped plans for a training facility to be located in the Philippines, a company representative said Friday that the private security firm is no longer seeking to build "Blackwater West" in Potrero, California.

The prospect of Blackwater expanding its training operations to the area had sparked political controversy in the small town of Potrero, about 45 miles east of San Diego, where locals organized protests to prevent the move. Blackwater responded with a PR campaign that included an appearance by the firm's Parachute Demonstration Team (seriously, how many companies have one of those?) during the half-time show of a San Diego State football game. If that wasn't enough, Blackwater upped the ante when it provided a tent city for families displaced by last fall's California wildfires. But alas, even that was not enough to win the hearts and minds of southern Californians. (Watch the YouTube depiction of the mythical "Blackwater Surfer" for a comic representation of some residents' fears.)

From Bill Sizemore at the Virginian-Pilot:

The Moyock, N.C.-based private military company has learned that the project would not comply with the county noise ordinance, spokeswoman Anne Tyrrell said Friday.
"Although the site 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 plan simply does not meet the county's parameters or our business objectives at this time," Tyrrell said in an e-mail statement. The proposal had stirred a storm of opposition from a coalition of rural residents, environmentalists and anti-war activists.
In December, five members of a local planning board who had voted to approve the project were recalled by voters in Potrero, the tiny community 45 miles east of San Diego where Blackwater wanted to build its facility on an 824-acre chicken and cattle ranch.
Raymond Lutz, one of the leaders of the opposition, said Friday he believes the company simply yielded to the popular will.
Lutz had just announced his candidacy Thursday for the local state Assembly seat, pledging to run largely on an anti-Blackwater platform.
"They just said, in my view, 'We're out of here,' " Lutz said. "'We have to get out of this and cut our losses right now.' "