Meeting set on release of Royal Gorge docs |

Meeting set on release of Royal Gorge docs

Emma Garrard/Sierra Sun file photoJack Schwartz and Nancy Latiner hang up a sign on Latiner's Soda Springs home earlier this year. Schwartz and Latiner are two of the many Donner Summit homeowners opposed to development.

GRASS VALLEY ” Placer County has agreed to meet with a lawyer hired by Donner Summit property owners to discuss the possibility of releasing documents from Royal Gorge developers to the public.

Last week, a lawyer representing the Serene Lakes Property Owners Association threatened a lawsuit if the documents were returned to the developer before being made public. Repeated requests to see the papers have been rejected.

The legal wrangling is occurring over a proposed 950-unit housing development on the summit, a plan that many nearby property owners oppose. The development is one of the biggest proposed projects in the Sierra ” in a remote part of the region that has raised concerns about its infrastructure.

“What they’ve agreed to do is not to return them until we’ve resolved this through litigation or through a settlement,” said Donald Mooney, the lawyer for the Serene Lakes Property Owners Association. “We’ve told the county if they don’t supply the documents, we’ll take them to court.”

Royal Gorge delivered more than 100 pages of documents, labeled “pre-submittal administrative draft,” to the county the day before Thanksgiving.

The county denied efforts by Serene Lakes property owner Joseph Gray to see them earlier this month, contending they were administrative in nature and exempt from release under the Public Information Act.

A week ago, The Union filed a request to see the documents under the Freedom of Information Act. Placer County has not yet responded to that request. By law, it has 10 days to respond.

The county was supposed to send the documents back to Royal Gorge after the developers asked for their return. The threat of litigation has kept the papers in county hands, however.

Gray said the county’s latest response confirms his belief that the documents are public records.

“They’re turning into a cooperative mode,” Gray said. “We’re keeping our fingers crossed.”

Royal Gorge and the county said keeping the filing private was meant to avoid “confusion” over “misinformation” during the pre-application process. The developer’s formal application for the project will come next year.

In a Dec. 20 letter, Mooney notified Deputy County Counsel Scott Finley of attempts to schedule a Christmas Eve court hearing to prevent the county from returning the papers to Royal Gorge until the public could review them.

The county agreed to retain them in county files if a resolution could be reached outside of court, Finley said. If it is determined that the documents are public records, they will become available to all, he said.

“If it’s a public record, it’s a public record,” Finley said. “That’s the discussion we’re having right now.”

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