Placer County judge: Late filing means no lawsuit against Bohemia project

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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A lawsuit filed three days late has cost foes of a Wal-Mart/Costco-type store in North Auburn a chance to take the development to court. Superior Court Judge Charles Wachob ruled Friday that the Alliance for the Protection of Auburn (APACE) was three days late in filing its suit against Bohemia Properties. Wachob said that a notice of determination on environmental approvals was filed with the state Sept. 29 and the 30-day statute of limitations to start a legal action challenging approval of the Bohemia project expired Oct. 29. APACE had asked the court for relief on the late filing but Wachob said he had no authority to grant it “whether (it) was filed a day late or a year late, and regardless of the excuse offered by petitioners for their failure to meet the statutory deadline for filing.” APACE member Lee Lively said while the decision appears to close the door on any opposition to moving ahead with the Bohemia project, attorney Tal Finney has said there may still be some legal avenues to pursue. Lively said Finney’s law firm blamed a process server for not submitting the suit to the court on time. A call to Finney was not returned Monday. APACE planned to sue Placer County and Bohemia developer Jim Conkey of Roseville to stop development of a Wal-Mart or Costco-type store on an 18.6-acre site near Luther Road and Highway 49. The Board of Supervisors approved environmental documentation required by the state on Sept. 28 and the papers were filed the next day – starting the 30-day clock ticking down on APACE mounting a court challenge. “Everyone’s upset with the law firm,” Lively said. “But they tell us they have a couple of tricks left in the bag. These guys know their beans real well and I expect something to pup up.” Lively said it’s highly doubtful that APACE would challenge the Wachob decision in a higher court. A spokesman for Bohemia said Monday that the decision should be applauded. “Bottom line – the judge did the right thing and ruled in favor of Bohemia Properties based upon the rule of law,” spokesman Steve Cavolt said. “The opposition filed a frivolous lawsuit to begin with and they had 30 days to challenge Placer County Board of Supervisors’ approval of the project.” The APACE writ cited the risk of naturally occurring asbestos at the site, what it considers an incomplete urban decay study and failure to look at a reasonable range of alternatives as reasons the environmental impact report was incomplete. Dale Smith, a North Auburn resident and neighborhood rights advocate, said he wasn’t involved in the APACE opposition. He challenged the project on the grounds it would create traffic safety risks on Highway 49. “That can happen,” Smith said, when informed of the judge’s decision. “That makes me feel a little sorry. But they can appeal that. It’s more appealable than you would think. I hate to think of 10,000 more vehicle trips on Highway 49 – that would be horrible.”