Developers suffer slings, arrows

Looking Behind the Scenes
By: Jim Ruffalo
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Rewriting the notebook while noting that our biggest problem these days might be that we’ve gone from revering our Founding Fathers to worshiping our Funding Flounderers ... Another fiscal problem might be the runaway costs being incurred by foolish folk who actually believe they have a right to develop their private property. Because the legal system has somehow been allowed to tip the checks and balances to favor that side, those heretics known as developers have had to budget a large chunk of their seed money for legal costs. One of the most recent groups to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous litigation is that gaggle of property owners who, for the past few years, have been trying to build a massive project near Roseville known as Vineyards. The proponents wanted to erect a bit more than 14,000 units on about 5,200 acres in an area bordered by Baseline Road, Dry Creek, Walerga Road and the Sutter and Sacramento county lines. The project had been unanimously approved by the Placer County Board of Supervisors back in July of 2007. But before a shovel hit the ground, a triumvirate of Sutter County, the Sierra Club and a group of local residents filed suit There were several major issues brought by the suit, which was heard as a bench trial in a Sacramento County Superior Court, but the traffic portion was decided upon in an out-of-court settlement with Sutter County. That left five major issues remaining, including the germane one of where would a development this size get guaranteed water delivery? Then on Oct. 23, Sacramento Superior Court Judge Lloyd G. Connelly basically ruled for the developers, although the final judgment has yet to be signed. Connelly also ruled that while California State Law now requires the issue of global warming to be addressed, the proponents met those legal requirements. “Basically, the judge found that global warming is a worldwide problem, and not solely a county problem,” said Tony LaBouff, Placer County’s County counsel. “The judge found that of course a project this size will contribute to global warming, but that contribution can be mitigated,” he added. LaBouff said the county prevailed on every issue raised. He wouldn’t come right out and say that the county won, no doubt because attorneys don’t like to hurt each others feelings. However, he did admit that the judge “after a much-watched and reviewed process, validated everything we raised.” He had special praise for Jim Moose, the private attorney who handled much of the water-availability issues for the defendants. Issues such as those always center upon certainty of delivery as well as the reasonable probability of such deliveries. “(Moose) writes books on the subject, is a recognized scholar on the issue, and probably dreams about it when he goes to sleep,” LaBouff said. LaBouff also praised one of his own, Scott Finley, the supervising deputy county counsel. “Scott diligently worked with all of the county staff including attorneys, department heads and their staffers,” LaBouff said, adding that Finley was then able to put all that information together in a cognizant, presentable fashion. Doubtlessly, nobody will be surprised if the decision gets appealed. Or as one legal wit described the process: “Once upon a time, development was handled by planners, Now it’s handled by attorneys.”... Good Ol’ Charlie Brown Two things immediately sprang to mind upon learning that Charlie Brown was off to Washington D.C. to go to work for Homeland Security. The first reaction was absolute distaste for the extremely boorish remarks by Republican Party county chairman Tom Hudson. The appropriate response, which should be remembered should the press ever make the mistake of asking Hudson a question during feeding time, should be: “Well, good luck and Godspeed.” And my second point is how lucky we are that Brown’s going to Homeland Security. Maybe he can find our missing H1N1 flu vaccine. And even if Homeland Security chief Janet Napolitano continues to stand in the way of deliveries, let’s remember that Brown was a pretty fair combat pilot, judging by his descriptions given us during stump speeches. Fly a batch of the swine flu vaccine to us every week or so and who knows, maybe next time we’ll vote for you. And the flight should be safer this time. After all, as a Democrat, he certainly won’t get any flak from the media. Jim Ruffalo’s column runs Sundays in the Journal. Reach him at