Dorsey Marketplace litigation dismissed, project likely further delayed by appeal
A lawsuit filed last August against the Dorsey Marketplace project has been dismissed by a Nevada County Superior Court judge, but the project itself cannot yet begin construction, as the plaintiffs intend to appeal the ruling to a state court.
The suit — filed by Community Environmental Advocates (CEA), an environmental protection nonprofit, and a local group called Protect Grass Valley — was already expected to be dismissed after a preliminary court ruling earlier this year that rejected the petitioner’s claims.
On June 18, Judge Thomas Anderson reaffirmed the preliminary ruling, rejecting virtually all of the claims listed in the lawsuit.
Ralph Silberstein, a spokesperson for CEA, said the plaintiffs will appeal Anderson’s ruling to a California state appellate court, which is the next highest level of judicial review after a county court decision.
The plaintiffs had not had a chance to review the ruling by Thursday, according to Robert Tepper, an attorney for the litigating parties. Tepper called it “ridiculous” that the plaintiffs had still not received a copy of the ruling from Nevada County a week after the ruling, claiming that the court had not responded to his request for a digital copy.
“I find it entertaining that folks on the other side of this litigation have seen it, and we have still not been blessed with a copy,” Tepper said. However, CEA & Protect Grass Valley are already planning to proceed with an appeal to an appellate court.
This appeal means that the project — which originally received a green light in April 2020 from the city of Grass Valley to begin development — cannot yet get underway, as developers will have to await the results of the appellate ruling to start construction. The appellate appeal process is likely to delay the Dorsey Project for at least a year, according to Warren Hughes, one of the project’s managers.
The Dorsey Marketplace project is slated for development at the site of the former Spring Hill Mine in Grass Valley.
In their litigation filed last August, CEA & Protect Grass Valley had asked Anderson to reverse previous city approval of the project, suspend the project’s activity in its entirety, and order the city to conduct a new comprehensive environmental review of the Dorsey Project.
The plaintiffs argued that the project’s development posed substantial threats to both human health and environmental protection, and that the city had failed to take these risks into account when the project was approved.
The lawsuit argued that the project ran the risk of substantially increasing harmful greenhouse gas emissions, as well as having potentially adverse effects on surrounding wildlife. The petitioners also claimed that development at the Springfield Mine Site could release deadly toxins that are characteristic of abandoned mines, and that the project could cause traffic and noise pollution issues in the surrounding community.
In his ruling, Anderson wholly rejected these arguments, noting that the city had already conducted a report over a two-year period demonstrating that the project’s environmental impact would be minimal.
Anderson said that a couple of the claims held some validity, such as concerns about noise pollution and the impacts on regional plant life. However, such concerns had already been noted in the city’s report, and the Dorsey Project’s developers were taking steps to mitigate these issues.
The judge also emphasized that the plaintiffs had failed to provide overwhelming proof as to the inadequacy of the city’s report, noting that standards of judicial review require the court to presume that that such reports are adequate, unless there is undeniable evidence to the contrary.
Despite Anderson’s ruling, the project cannot yet begin construction, as developers must now await the results of the plaintiff’s looming appeal to an appellate court, Hughes said, noting that it would not be feasible for development to get underway if it were to later be halted or undone entirely by a later judicial ruling.
The ongoing legal battle is also proving to be financially problematic for the project, as construction costs only increase as more time drags on, in turn decreasing the expected financial profit of the development, Hughes said.
The development’s potential profit is largely contingent on expected revenue from rents charged for the planned plots of residential and commercial units.
With rapidly increasing supply and labor costs, along with steadily rising city and county fees that have to be paid for an enterprise of this scale, the project could eventually have to be discontinued entirely, as such costs could exceed the expected rental profits, Hughes added.
“The legal fees we are paying are very substantial, and with the overall cost of a project like this with construction, there will come a point where it doesn’t make any sense to build the project,” Hughes said.
With potential repeated appeals, Hughes said he is concerned that the legal process could stretch on for a period of several years if the plaintiffs continue to pursue the suit.
If developed and completed, the Dorsey Project would entail the construction of 172 residential units with solar panels, 104,250 square feet for commercial usage, and 8,500 square feet of office space.
Russell Jeter, a large-scale real estate developer and investor, originally pitched the proposal to Grass Valley in 2014, claiming that the project would create hundreds of jobs and generate up to $100 million in taxable sales.
Stephen Wyer is a staff writer with The Union. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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