California nonprofit files lawsuit against Martis Valley West
November 3, 2016
KINGS BEACH, Calif. — The California Clean Energy Committee filed a lawsuit against Placer County on Oct. 26 in response to the board of supervisors' approval of the Martis Valley West Specific Plan, according to documents obtained by the Sierra Sun.
The petition for a writ of mandate, filed by attorney Eugene Wilson on behalf of his organization, the nonprofit CCEC, alleges the county failed to comply with the California Environmental Quality Act by certifying the plan's environmental impact report, which they say did not provide sufficient environmental analysis.
"The county's position is that we had a fully adequate CEQA document and we will vigorously defend the board's action," Placer County attorney Karin Schwab told the Sierra Sun Thursday.
According to the lawsuit, the California Clean Energy Committee also alleges the county's approval of the plan violates CEQA because the findings in the environmental impact report were inadequate, and because the county failed to recirculate the environmental impact report for public comment after significant new information was added.
Schwab said the next course of action would be for the CCEC to prepare an administrative record.
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The CCEC also names Martis Valley West developer Mountainside Partners and land-owner Sierra Pacific Industries as "real parties in interest" in the suit.
"We have been notified that a lawsuit has been filed by the California Clean Energy Committee as it relates to the Martis Valley West Project which was recently approved by Placer County," Mountainside Partners Managing Partner Blake Riva said in an email to the Sun. "Sierra Pacific Industries and Mountainside Partners will continue to work closely with Placer County as they prepare a response to the filing."
The Martis Valley West Specific Plan included the transfer of a development from the east side of Highway 267 to the west side of the highway, adjacent to Northstar Resort, just outside the Lake Tahoe Basin boundary.
The developer planned to build 760 single-family residences on the west side of the highway in-lieu of the 1,360 homes for which the east side was zoned. They also said that if the transfer were completed, the east side would be made available for permanent conservation.
Opponents of the projects argue that 760 new homes is too many, and the conservation easement of the east parcel is too little to ensure the land's protection.
The county planning commission voted 5-2 in July to recommend the plan be denied, but the county board of supervisors approved it in a 4-1 decision in October, saying the project's benefits outweighed the concerns.
The California Clean Energy Committee, a nonprofit based in Davis, Calif., previously filed a lawsuit against Placer County in 2011, alleging that the environmental impact report in the plan to redevelop Homewood Mountain Resort on Tahoe's West Shore violated CEQA for several reasons.
In 2015, an appellate court agreed that the development failed to properly analyze wildfire risk and assess evacuation needs, but rejected the CCEC's other claims.
Wilson confirmed to the Sun on Thursday he had filed the lawsuit. When asked to speak to the nonprofit's interest in the development, Wilson declined to provide additional details.
The Sierra Sun will continue to seek information on the case as it becomes available.
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