Future of Martis Valley hangs on judge’s ruling | SierraSun.com

Future of Martis Valley hangs on judge’s ruling

David Bunker
Sierra Sun

The legal briefs and arguments are final and the future of development in Martis Valley hinges on a judge’s decision.

On Monday, Judge James Garbolino heard Placer County, Martis Valley land owners and conservationists argue their positions on the legality of the Martis Valley Community Plan adopted by Placer County in 2003. Nearly 14 months after the Placer County plan was challenged by five environmental groups, a resolution in the legal battle over the extent and intensity of development in the valley is imminent.

“All that’s left now is for the judge to issue a final decision,” said Rick Crabtree, attorney for Placer County.

Conservationists and Placer County expanded on arguments that they had already raised in briefs submitted to the judge in the five-hour hearing held in Auburn on Monday. Relying on those briefs, the California superior court issued a tentative ruling in February, that favored almost all of the conservationists claims that the community plan and environmental review are faulty.

However, a final ruling in the case will not be released until the Garbolino analyzes both oral and written arguments in the case. Crabtree said that process could still take weeks.

The central argument in the Martis Valley lawsuit is how much development will be allowed under the plan. Since the community plan does not include a growth cap, conservationists say future zoning changes could make way for much greater development than analyzed under the plan’s environmental review.

“We are confident that the tentative ruling was correct,” said Rachel Hooper, attorney for the environmental groups, following the hearing.

Crabtree said the county welcomed the opportunity to explain how the county “fine tuned” growth limitations through zoning standards that are used throughout Placer County.

“I felt good about having an opportunity to explain to the judge why the county relied on zoning to limit growth in Martis Valley,” said Crabtree.

If either the the county or conservationists disagree with the judge’s decision after his final ruling, they will have an opportunity to appeal the decision to an appeals court.