Nix of county’s General Plan may be appealed |

Nix of county’s General Plan may be appealed

Rick Chandler

Even though his grass-roots coalition beat El Dorado County in court, Keith Johnson is under no illusions that things will magically change for the better.

At least not right away.

Sacramento Superior Court Judge Cecily Bond handed down a crucial ruling on Feb. 5, throwing out El Dorado County’s General Plan. The ruling came in response to a lawsuit brought by a coalition of environmentalists, homeowners and businessmen who contended that the plan – the county’s blueprint for development and land use – failed to disclose the effects of planned growth on the environment.

So what now?

“We’re kind of in a limbo right now,” said Johnson, who represents the El Dorado County Taxpayers for Quality Growth, a driving force behind the lawsuit. “What we can get written in stone is what’s in question right now. We’re expecting some kind of an appeal.”

The county has several options, and plenty of time to mull them over. “We are still awaiting the final court order, so it’s going to be a couple of weeks before we’re able to move ahead,” said County Counsel Lou Green, who indicated that the county has not yet decided whether it will appeal the ruling. “After we submit a final writ, the court could direct us to set aside the Environmental Impact Report of the General Plan.

“It certainly was an adverse decision,” he said. “One can never predict with certainty what can happen in the judicial process, but we were hopeful it would have come out differently.”

What all this means is that the county will be going back to the drawing board on a General Plan that was at least six years in the making – and in general concept closer to two decades in the making.

“In the short term, the victory can only mean something good,” Johnson said. “In the long-term, it’s hard to make predictions.”

Bond’s 142-page ruling identified 12 violations of the California Environmental Quality Act within the General Plan.

A portion of the ruling read: “At the very least, the county’s discussion of traffic impacts was unnecessarily complex and obscure. The Court is persuaded that it violated CEQA because it did not fairly disclose one of the significant environmental impacts of the General Plan. Thus, with regard to traffic impacts, the county’s environmental review failed to serve as an “environmental alarm bell,” or “document of accountability,” which the Supreme Court has stated are two of the essential functions of CEQA.”

Fifth District Supervisor Dave Solaro sees the ruling as a positive, no matter what side of the development debate you are on.

“The General Plan was up for review anyway,” he said. “I see this as a chance for all sides to come together and form a consensus.

“We in this county are faced with very important issues concerning water, the environment, traffic, and many others. Maybe now we can develop a plan and move forward.”

Said Green: “This will give us a chance to go back and revisit some issues. From that respect, this could turn out to be beneficial.”

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