(PLACERVILLE, CA) – The El Dorado Superior Court issued its final ruling in Rural Communities United v. El Dorado County Board of Supervisors, rejecting all but a few of the challenges to the County’s December 2015 adoption of the Targeted General Plan Amendment and Zoning Ordinance Update.
The lawsuit challenged the County’s December 2015 certification of the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) and approval of the TGPA/ZOU on the alleged grounds that the approval of the TGPA/ZOU, and other ancillary planning documents, violated the California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”) and other land use laws and that the approval process denied Petitioners of due process. The trial court rejected all of Rural Communities United’s land use claims and nearly all of the CEQA claims.
“We are delighted to have this affirming ruling in a case that has been litigated for nearly three years,” said County Counsel, Michael Ciccozzi. “By denying nearly all the Petitioner’s substantive claims, the Court sent a clear message that the County can continue to implement its General Plan and enforce its zoning ordinance with a narrowly scoped EIR re-certification effort.”
In its 239-page ruling, the Court took issue with only 11 of the County’s 1300 responses to comments on the EIR and a procedural issue solely related to where the disclosure of a disagreement between the County and the California Board of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) should appear in the EIR. The trial court rejected all of the remaining arguments.
In order to address the Court’s ruling, the County need only do a more thorough response to the 11 comments the County received from the general public and present its disagreement with Cal Fire in the Executive Summary section of the EIR rather than in a later chapter of the EIR. The remainder of the EIR (roughly 9000 pages) remains as certified by the County.
“The court’s decision reflects that after four years of hard work by County staff and consultants, more than 200 public meetings and hearings and expending significant taxpayer dollars, the County met all of its land use responsibilities and with the exception of a handful of responses to comments, fulfilled its CEQA obligations,” said Ciccozzi. “The Board of Supervisors and staff are committed to a transparent and rigorous public review, now and in the future. The commitment is reflected in the Court’s decision,” he said.
The Board of Supervisors, at the request of and on the recommendation of County Counsel, engaged the services of an outside law firm to assist the County in defending against this lawsuit. To date, the County has incurred outside counsel legal expenses in defense of the litigation of approximately $253,000 and has internally incurred County Counsel legal costs of approximately $45,000.
“In defending this litigation, the County incurred extensive costs not only directly related to County Counsel’s time and outside counsel, but also other County departments’ staff time required to assemble and review an administrative record that included more than half a million pages,” said Ciccozzi. “After two-and-a-half years of costly litigation, the County looks forward to continuing to work toward achieving the visions and goals of the County’s General Plan,” he added.
Providing safe, healthy and vibrant communities; respecting our natural resources and historical heritage.