Hard to Please
County's recently approved General Plan hit with lawsuits from all sides.
Monday, November 29, 2010
At least four community groups are suing the Monterey County Board of Supervisors over the county's recently approved General Plan.
The Carmel Valley Association, LandWatch Monterey County and The Open Monterey Project filed their petitions Nov. 24, about one month after the supervisors unanimously approved the often-revised 2010 General Plan, known as GPU5. The three environmental groups ask the Monterey County Superior Court to force the county to follow California’s Environmental Quality Act and abide by established zoning laws.
But a fourth suit filed by local growers—also on Nov. 24—claims GPU5's water requirements essentially slam the door on growth of the county's agricultural industry.
According to the CVA, this iteration of the General Plan will allow for a substantial increase in traffic congestion in Carmel Valley and the rest of the county over the next 20 years. The group claims it’s a “clear violation” of CEQA, and is asking a judge to force the county to prepare an Environmental Impact Report to comply.
The Open Monterey Project suit also states environmental impacts “were not adequately identified, investigated or analyzed” in the environmental impact report already prepared by the county. The supervisors presented new information and policies during its review of GPU5 beginning in August without giving the public time to review any changes, the suit states.
The suit also claims as an example that the existing EIR failed to analyze the impact of the Agricultural Winery Corridor Plan, touted as a tourist draw and a way for boutique wineries, tasting rooms, restaurants and hotels to open on and around River Road.
“There are a lot of incompletes in the plan that will, if it’s not set aside, lead to more growth than the EIR discusses and than the county has admitted,” says Michael Stamp, attorney for The Open Monterey Project. “It’s an open-door policy for development in the county.”
LandWatch's suit asks the judge to suspend the county's authority "to issue building permits, zoning changes, zoning variances, and subdivision maps until the County does bring its general plan into compliance."
The lawsuit filed by the Salinas Valley Water Coalition and the Monterey County Farm Bureau alleges that one particular GPU5 provision, requiring development permit applicants to verify a long-term sustainable water supply, "virtually turn[s] the spigot off for agricultural and urban growth without expensive, individually-supported analysis of resources."
The grower groups claim GPU5 amounts to a breach of contract with taxpayers in the Salinas Valley Water Project area, who pay higher property assessments to support the Salinas Valley Water Project, which is intended to meet the Salinas Valley's agricultural and urban water needs through the year 2030. But GPU5's water provision raises the bar for a water supply to "indefinitely," a standard growers argue is virtually impossible to meet. The lawsuit seeks to re-open the environmental analysis process to address the issue.
"Why should agricultural operation and urban development proposals now have to prove 'indefinite' water supply when there are no environmental studies to support that requirement?" asks SVWC President Nancy Isakson.
County spokeswoman Maia Carroll could not be reached Monday morning for immediate comment.
The 2010 General Plan creates a blueprint for the next 20 years of rural land use and development. The supes approved it unanimously Oct. 26 after making some last-minute tweaks to address concerns raised by both developers and land-use watchdogs in Carmel Valley.