Truckee Railyard lawsuit: Judge could take up to 90 days before final ruling
TRUCKEE, Calif. and#8212; A superior court judge on Friday ruled to take up to 90 days to review the Railyard development lawsuit after hearing arguments from the group against it that the town and developer did an inadequate job of environmental preparation.
Attorneys for the Friends of Truckee, the plaintiff, and Town of Truckee and developer Holliday Development, the defendants, deliberated before Judge C. Anders Holmer on Friday in Truckeeand#8217;s Nevada County Superior Court. The lawsuit alleges violations of the California Environmental Quality Act in the preparation of the Environmental Impact Report for the Railyard, a development planned for the east end of downtown Truckee.
and#8220;One of the purposes of CEQA is to be an informational document, not just for the decision makers but for the public,and#8221; said Don Mooney, attorney for the Friends of Truckee, who filed the suit last summer.
The residential and commercial project that could include a hotel and movie theater was unanimously approved by town council last June.
Mooney argued that the Railyard development and the restoration of Trout Creek, which flows from behind downtown and along the project, canand#8217;t be treated separately.
He also takes issue with the projectand#8217;s plans to take down an old railroad building on the site, which he said is a historic resource.
Whit Manley, attorney for the town and project owner Holliday Development, said the project has the support of groups that would be most concerned about those issues, namely the Truckee River Watershed Council and the Truckee Donner Historical Society.
and#8220;That doesnand#8217;t mean the petitioners canand#8217;t sue but all those stakeholders who have an eye on those particular issues support the project,and#8221; Manley said.
After hearing both sides, Holmer took the matter under submission, meaning he has 90 days from April 2 to rule. Holmer said in the end, his role is to look at the Environmental Impact Report itself, and not get bogged down in the minutia.
and#8220;When I stray from that role I become a de facto planner, and Iand#8217;m not,and#8221; Holmer said. and#8220;I donand#8217;t pass judgment on government decisions.and#8221;
Once that decision is made, either side could appeal to the 3rd District Court of Appeals in Sacramento.
Mooney said CEQA requires an environmental review of alternatives that would lessen or get rid of the known significant impacts of the project, and argued the Railyard alternatives of keeping Donner Pass Road in place and reducing the density of the project donand#8217;t do that.
and#8220;They acknowledge no significant impacts were avoided or lessened with reduced density,and#8221; Mooney said.
The project should have also looked at other locations, he said.
and#8220;One of the main issues was traffic, which would then be addressed by reducing development and therefore the number of cars, but as it happens … even if we reduce the size the traffic impact is the same,and#8221; Manley said. and#8220;In fact even if the Railyard remained vacant weand#8217;d have the same impact and#8212; itand#8217;s driven by regional growth and not the project.and#8221;
As for considering alternative sites, Manley said that misses the point of the project.
and#8220;The argument that we should have looked at offsite alternatives is almost laughable. The objective of the project is to redevelop the Railyard and#8212; itand#8217;s the only large space suitable for redevelopment adjacent to downtown,and#8221; Manley said. and#8220;To me, thatand#8217;s kind of a silly argument.and#8221;
Mooney also pointed out a number of errors and inconsistencies throughout the Environmental Impact Report.
and#8220;This is an overall problem with the EIR and this pattern goes from issue to issue,and#8221; Mooney said.
But Manley said it would be unreasonable to expect such a sizable document to be completely free of errors.
and#8220;Mr. Mooney said there was an effort to provide wiggle room, to be somehow less than candid, but I donand#8217;t see how you can look at this record and come to this conclusion,and#8221; Manley said. and#8220;The town is entitled to the benefit of the doubt … perfection is not the standard.and#8221;