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Residents Take On George Lucas Over Marin Construction Plans

SAN RAFAEL (KCBS / CBS 5) - The long-delayed plans of filmmaker George Lucas to build a movie production studio on the old Grady Ranch has stirred opposition among residents of a quiet bedroom community in Marin County.

The state-of-the-art facility would bring an outdoor soundstage and underground parking for 250 cars to an area residents said is zoned for single-family and multi-family residences.

Objections voiced during a community meeting Wednesday at Dixie Elementary School ran the gamut from traffic congestion to noise pollution during outdoor filming.

The 3-story building that would house Lucasfilm screening rooms, guest accommodations, a café, kitchen, general store and daycare center is actually smaller than the project Marin County approved in 1996.

KCBS' Chris Filippi Reports:

Lucas plans to build bridges over and restore several creeks on Grady Ranch. Material excavated to build a wine cave to age vino from the filmmakers' vineyards would become a knoll that hides the building from public view.

The plans also call for two new indoor soundstages, each the size of a department store, and one large outdoor soundstage.

Neighbors fear what this could do to their rural lifestyles.

"It may turn into a winery. They may have sort of an amusement park, it could morph into many different things," said neighbor Janice Warren.

"I think that they justified it because it was 'jobs, jobs, jobs,' which justifies almost anything these days," added Joy Dahlgren, who also lives nearby.

The county's planning department maintains this is an important project for the area, and that community fears are unfounded. They contend the project is consistent with the master plan for the area, and any problems it causes with the neighborhood would have to be addressed by the developer. They added that none of the facilities would be open to the public and a maximum occupancy of 350 people would be in effect.

But those who oppose the project see it as a David vs. Goliath fight.

"We are regular, everyday people, and he is a beloved celebrity," said neighbor Hillary Sciarillo.

"I don't have any objection to a person being rich and famous and doing well, and George Lucas has done a lot of good things for the county. I think this is a particularly bad choice," said Dahlgren.

Lucas Films sent CBS 5 a statement saying they were surprised at the opposition since the plan had been publicly vetted and discussed and unanimously approved by the county's Board of Supervisors.

The project now goes before the Marin County Planning Commission on Feb. 27.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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