Court rejects challenges to county’s general plan
September 6, 2005
El Dorado County’s general plan will move forward after a Sacramento County judge ruled against challenges brought by a West Slope-based slow growth group.
Last week’s ruling, issued by Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Gail D. Ohanesian, is a major step toward the implementation of the El Dorado County General Plan. It denies challenges to the 2004 plan’s environmental impact report.
“We’re obviously delighted with the ruling,” El Dorado County counsel Lou Green said Friday. “Now hopefully we can get on with the business of the county.”
The El Dorado County Taxpayers for Quality Growth, which also challenged the 1996 general plan, filed a motion last September challenging the 2004 plan’s environmental impact report.
In July, both sides squared off in front of Ohanesian. Attorney Steven Volker, representing the Taxpayers for Quality Growth, maintained that the 2004 General Plan’s environmental impact report suffered from most of the defects found in its predecessor, the 1996 plan’s EIR.
When contacted by the Mountain Democrat Friday, Volker said he had not yet read the decision and therefore was not in a position to comment.
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Had Ohanesian ruled in favor of the El Dorado County Taxpayers for Quality Growth, the county would have had to either make changes to its general plan and environmental impact report or create new documents.
Attorney Bill White, who works for the county through the law firm of Shute, Mihaly and Weinberger, maintained the 2004 general plan and environmental impact report go “far beyond” directions included in Judge Cecily Bond’s writ of mandate, which has limited the county’s land-use planning ability since early 1999. Bond has since retired.
But Volker cited 23 cases in which he believed the county had violated the California Environmental Quality Act.
“The draft environmental impact report fails to provide the full environmental review Judge Bond requested,” Volker said in July. “There are a host of impacts that were not adequately addressed.”
Volker pointed to EIR elements such as what he said was a failure to protect migrating deer herds in the county. The county’s adoption of “important biological corridors” doesn’t meet the needs, he said, because the corridors run north to south.
Discussing the Aug. 31 ruling, Green said Ohanesian’s opinion was “all (the county) could have hoped for.”
He praised its thoroughness, referring to the opinion as strong and well-reasoned and noting that Ohanesian “obviously spent a lot of time to understand these issues and rule on them.”
Of the reaction of the El Dorado County Board of Supervisors, Green said, “I’m sure they’re just as delighted.”
“Fifteen years of hell” have likely come to a conclusion with a court ruling dated Aug. 31, El Dorado County Supervisor Jack Sweeney said.
The next step, according to White, is to prepare an order formally lifting the writ. That shouldn’t be a long process, he added.
“I think it’s about time the county was given the right to implement the General Plan after all these years,” White said.
Of course, the other party can always appeal the ruling and move for reconsideration, White explained. Green said he can’t predict whether or not that will happen.