Judge knocks down building ban | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Judge knocks down building ban

Rick Chandler

Non-residential development in El Dorado County is no longer on hold, thanks to a ruling by a Sacramento judge that clears up some complicated land-use issues on the West Slope.

Sacramento Superior Court Judge Cecily Bond has ruled that the county may proceed with non-residential projects while it rewrites the General Plan to comply with traffic and environmental issues.

In February, Bond overturned the county’s General Plan – the document that guides the county’s land use – ruling that the county violated state environmental laws by failing to spell out the effects of new development on water supplies, traffic impacts and the environment.

Then, in March, two citizens groups filed suit to stop three major shopping centers – a project known as Missouri Flat – and a subdivision that had already been approved by the Board of Supervisors.

So for all intents and purposes, construction ground to a halt in El Dorado County.

Now, however, Bond has ruled that the county may follow its proposal to approve projects while it reconsiders the General Plan.

“This is good for the county because it’s a balanced ruling,” said El Dorado County Deputy Counsel Tom Cumpston. “It doesn’t shut everything down, but at the same time it requires the county to proceed carefully.”

There won’t be bulldozers rolling into Missouri Flat any time soon, however. There are still environmental impact issues to hash out in the area, including a reported sighting of the environmentally-protected red-legged frog at one of the construction sites.

Also, any new construction must comply with Measure Y, the initiative passed in November that requires developers to account for 100 percent of the road improvement costs connected to their projects.

“I see this ruling as a real benefit to the county’s economy,” said Fifth District Supervisor Dave Solaro. “It means the county won’t shut down. If this had been allowed to continue unresolved, it could have put a lot of people out of work.”

The Lake Tahoe area is not directly impacted by the ruling, as Solaro and Second District Supervisor Ray Nutting had previously asked for and received an exemption for any construction under the supervision of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency.

“This ruling requires the county to re-consider growth, and that’s a good thing,” said Bill Yeats, an attorney who filed one of the lawsuits on behalf of the Control Traffic Congestion Committee and the Taxpayers for Quality Growth.

“(The ruling) requires the county to address traffic consequences, and comply with the environmental impact report. It’s what we were saying all along; that the county did not fully disclose these impacts in the original General Plan.”

Under the ruling, new growth will be limited, said Cumpston.

“We won’t be opening the floodgates,” he said. “But construction can now go forward in areas which have already been zoned for that purpose.”

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