Friday, January 23, 2015
LandWatch Monterey County and the Highway 68 Coalition have filed lawsuits challenging the approval of the Ferrini Ranch development by the Monterey County Board of Supervisors. As approved, the project would create 185 new homesites along Highway 68. Retiring Supervisor Lou Calcagno cast the deciding vote, in one of his last official decisions.
The lawsuits claim a violation of the California Environmental Quality Act, or CEQA. CEQA doesn’t mandate any particular decision when a development project is considered, but it does require a fully adequate analysis of all of the impacts of a proposed project. That kind of analysis did not occur, according to LandWatch and the Highway 68 Coalition. In a non-CEQA challenge, LandWatch also charges that the development is in direct violation of General Plan requirements relating to proof of water.
The challengers will have the burden of proof, and the courts will “defer” to the Board’s decision, if there is “any” substantial evidence that the Board complied with the law. These lawsuits are not automatic winners. The County should be advised though, that if they do lose, the County may end up paying the attorneys’ fees of the challengers. Recent reports say that the County has to pay LandWatch over $400,000 in connection with an earlier lawsuit on the County General Plan.