Martis plan approved, will face litigation
The Martis Valley Community Plan was approved by the Placer County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, but may soon head to the courts as a trio of environmental groups plan a lawsuit to force alteration to a plan they call “a nightmare of traffic, pavement and smog.”
Sierra Watch, the Mountain Area Preservation Foundation and the League to Save Lake Tahoe have 30 days to file litigation on the plan that proposes as many as 6.300 additional homes in and around the valley southeast of Truckee. It also allows significant commercial development, and plans to widen a portion of state Route 267 to four lanes.
“Today’s vote is more like the starting gun than the finish line,” said Tom Mooers, executive director of Sierra Watch. “Now we can pursue litigation and, hopefully, compel stakeholders to the table to talk about a compromise plan.”
The Placer County Board of Supervisors certified the Environmental Impact Report for the proposal, and approved the project and rezoning associated with it in a Tuesday morning meeting. The approval vote was procedural, and its unanimity did not reflect the full support of the supervisors on the project, but rather reflected that changes noted in the 4-1 October approval of the project -District Five Supervisor Rex Bloomfield opposed the plan as proposed – were made.
The plan will govern county decisions until and unless it is overturned in court, said Placer County Planning Director Fred Yeager.
“That is something that typically takes a lot of time,” he said of the litigation process. Yeager also noted that this is a long-term plan that addresses the maximum development that could occur; actual development could be far less than the plan provides for, he said.
Mooers believes that they have a strong legal basis to overturn or alter the approved plan.
“There are a whole host of legal issues,” he said. “The county did not live up to the basic standards of state planning law.”
Mooers said that the county downplayed or sugarcoated traffic and environmental impacts to the area, and ignored public and regulatory input.
“Sierra Watch has worked for years to come up with a more reasonable plan,” said Mooers. “We came up with a science-based look at what land should be protected.”
Sierra Watch has proposed an alternative, which will allow for about 3,000 homes to be developed and will protect what the group has identified as environmentally sensitive areas.
Mooers said that the three groups are confident in their legal case, but that their “goal is not necessarily to win a lawsuit, but to approve a compromise.”
Rochelle Nason, executive director of the League to Save Lake Tahoe, said that she hopes the litigation will force the county to revisit the planning process and evaluate the major environmental impacts she says were left unanalyzed.
Planning Director Yeager sees little basis for a challenge on public or agency input issues.
“There was extensive opportunity over five years for public input and comment,” he said.
However, other issues, such as whether the county’s assumption of the ratio of full-time residents to vacation homes was accurate, could be enough basis to support a challenge. The California Environmental Quality Act also requires analysis of all potential impacts a development might have, and the environmental groups feel that many impacts were underestimated or unaddressed.
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