Saturday, July 07, 2007

Rancho Cordova Development

There is a slight hitch in their plans for a new community.

Rancho Cordova stymied
Worried about vernal pools, judge overturns OK of the Preserve housing project.
By Mary Lynne Vellinga - Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PDT Saturday, July 7, 2007

A Sacramento judge Friday overturned Rancho Cordova's approval of a proposed development that has put the city at odds with federal environmental agencies.

Superior Court Judge Patrick Marlette ruled that the city did not adequately spell out how it would mitigate the loss of vernal pools in the Preserve, a development of 2,700 homes planned for the middle of the Sunrise Douglas Community Plan.

The Rancho Cordova City Council adopted the plan for the Preserve in 2006, but construction remains on hold as the city spars with federal regulators over protection of vernal pools.

The California Native Plant Society sued in September. The group contends that the Preserve -- as designed -- would have a devastating effect on some of the finest vernal pool habitat in the Sacramento region.

Carol Witham, a local leader of the society, called Friday's ruling "a win for what the California Native Plant Society regards as the Yosemite of vernal pools."

… Phil Seymour, a lawyer for the city, downplayed the significance of the preservation strategy endorsed by the federal regulators, saying it had not been formally adopted.

"No environmental study has ever been done on the conceptual plan, no feasibility study has ever been done. It's one step above being written on a cocktail napkin," Seymour said.

The ruling in favor of the California Native Plant Society comes against a backdrop of legal uncertainty surrounding the larger Sunrise Douglas development, which is partially built and eventually will include about 18,000 homes.

In February, the California Supreme Court ruled that the environmental review for Sunrise Douglas was inadequate. Building has continued, however. Ultimately, it will be up to a Sacramento Superior Court judge to decide what additional environmental review is needed -- and whether to order construction to stop.