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Landowners threaten to sue Calexico over EIR

May 31, 2001|By AARON CLAVERIE, Staff Writer

CALEXICO — A group of landowners threatened to file a complaint against this city in Superior Court, according to a memo circulating City Hall this week.

The reason: City officials are requiring the group to pay for an environmental impact report for the housing and industrial developments it has planned for its northeast Calexico land.

Bravo Partners/Rodiles Ltd. has said through spokespeople that it doesn't need an EIR to begin construction on the RV park, industrial park and housing tracts they want to build.

The EIR would cost the landowners about $100,000 and take about a year to complete. The landowners have said they are ready to start construction in two months.

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If construction doesn't begin in two months one of the partners — one who has expressed interest in building the industrial park — could walk away from the deal, according to sources familiar with the negotiations.

If the group does file a complaint, a judge could overturn the City Council's decision to require the EIR, according to City Attorney Michael Rood.

Earlier this month the City Council voted 4-0 in support of a planning commission decision that required the landowners to complete a full EIR.

At public meetings, the group argued through its lawyer and development consultant that the project didn't require an EIR because the specifications of the proposed developments followed the requirements of a service area plan approved by the city in 1999.

The proposed developments would be built on more than 200 acres of farmland in the northeast corner of Calexico.

Ricardo Hinojosa, director of the city's planning department, said he is sure the city's decision to require the EIR will be validated if a complaint is filed.

He said the California Department of Transportation rejected the traffic study the landowners commissioned for the project.

"Just on that mere fact they don't qualify for a mitigated negative declaration," Hinojosa said.

A mitigated negative declaration is development terminology for the approval of a project without an EIR.

According to the Web site operated by the California Resources Agency, a state information agency, "Negative declaration can be prepared only when there is no substantial evidence in light of the whole record before the lead agency that the project may have a significant effect on the environment."

An EIR must be prepared when there is substantial evidence in the record that supports a fair argument that significant effects may occur.

Staff Writer Aaron Claverie can be reached at 337-3419.

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California Resources Agency Web site: http://www.ceres.ca.gov

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