Two Projects, 20 Years Apart, Constitute One CEQA Project

A court of appeal in California ruled that a decades-old plan to realign a road and a two-year-old plan to build a big box improvement store nearby only need to undergo one environmental impact analysis under the state's Environmental Quality Act.

"Development of a home improvement store and realignment of an adjacent road in Sonora constituted one project, and the combined activities should have been subject to a single environmental analysis, the Fifth District Court of Appeal has ruled."

"The fact that the road realignment appeared in the Sonora general plan 20 years before the Lowe's Home Improvement Warehouse was proposed and had been included in a local traffic impact fee program did not matter, the court determined. Instead, the court cited the close relationship between the proposed Lowe's and the road project, which was a condition of approval for Lowe's."

"In June 2005, the Sonora Planning Commission approved an 111,000-square-foot Lowe's building and 28,000-square-foot garden center, as well as a mitigated negative declaration for the development. One of the mitigation measures called for realignment and signalization of the intersection of Old Wards Ferry, Sanguinetti and Greenley roads, and relocation of the Sierra Railroad crossing of Old Wards Ferry. A group called Tuolumne Citizens for Responsible Development appealed to the City Council, which denied the appeal the following month."

"The citizens group then sued, alleging the city violated the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) in numerous ways. Tuolumne County Superior Court Judge James Boscoe ruled for the city and Lowe's. On appeal, the Fifth District overturned the lower court."

Note: California Planning and Development Report has made the source article accessible for free through Wednesday, December 5.

Full Story: Big-Box Store, Road Realignment Constitute 1 Project, Court Rules

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