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Rincon Del Rio subject of suit

Matthew Renda
Staff Writer

Keep Nevada County Rural, a group of South County citizens formed in opposition to the Rincon Del Rio project, has filed suit against Nevada County, claiming the approval of the retirement community did not conform to state law.

The organization said in the complaint, which was filed May 15, that approval of the 345-unit continuing care retirement community failed “to meet the requirements of (the California Environmental Quality Act) for disclosure, analysis, mitigation of significant project impacts and/or consideration of project alternatives.”

Karen Abbott, one of the leaders or the group, said her organization would have preferred to avoid litigation but ultimately felt “a legal challenge was the only way to be taken seriously.

“The county approved urbanizing a rural area,” she said.

“It’s disappointing. The only winners that come out of all this is the attorneys. It just delays the project and it’s costly.”
— Supervisor Ed Scofield

Ed Scofield, the Nevada County Supervisor who represents South County, said the suit was not unexpected.

“It’s disappointing,” he said. “The only winners that come out of all this is the attorneys. It just delays the project and it’s costly.”

County Counsel Alison Barratt-Green said the lawsuit does not automatically halt the project, as the developer may continue with a project at its own risk, unless the plaintiff obtains a formal court order staying the county’s approval.

Furthermore, Carol Young, the project applicant who owns Young Enterprises LP and plans to construct Rincon Del Rio, will be responsible for paying all costs associated with the defense of the lawsuit, Barratt-Green said.

“In most cases, the developer hires an attorney to handle the defense, and our office works with that attorney,” Barratt-Green said.

Young said she would not comment on litigation when reached by phone Thursday.

Specifically, the complaint asserts that the Environmental Impact Report fails to analyze and/or mitigate environmental impacts, including biological resources, aesthetic and visual resource impacts, seismic and slope stability, hydrology and water quality impacts, impacts to public services and utilities, noise impacts, traffic impacts and inconsistency with the Nevada County General Plan.

Throughout the project approval process, Abbott consistently decried the project’s potential to create more traffic on Rodeo Flat Road and the lack of infrastructure.

However, the chief criticism cited the project’s detrimental impact to the rural quality of life enjoyed by many of the residents living in proximity to the proposed project site.

Rincon Del Rio is not the first South County project to be approved by the supervisors, only to be saddled with a subsequent lawsuit.

In 2009, Fred Katz, owner of Roseville-based FHK Properties, obtained approval to begin construction on a project that included plans to build an approximately 57,000-square-foot supermarket, originally slated as a Bel Air Market, flanked by smaller retail structures on a 20-acre lot behind the CVS Pharmacy at Combie Road and Highway 49.

However, a lawsuit filed by a group called South County Citizens for Smart Growth filed in September 2009 has halted progress on the project.

The lawsuit, which alleged the county and the developer violated the California Environmental Quality Act on multiple fronts during the project approval process, was decided in favor of the county in August 2011.

Citizens for Smart Growth filed an appeal in November 2011, and the case has been stagnant in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals since.

“Lawsuits are just part of the process now,” said Supervisor Hank Weston.

Rincon Del Rio is slated to be located one-half mile east of Highway 49, just south of the Lake of the Pines community.

The proposal calls for the development of a 215-acre site that encompasses four separate parcels near the Bear River that are currently undeveloped.

The project as currently configured will provide 345 attached and detached housing units.

Plans dictate the development will be clustered on a 40-acre envelope located on the western half of the site with the remaining 170 acres to remain as open space with potential recreational options.

To contact Staff Writer Matthew Renda, email mrenda@theunion.com or 530-477-4239.

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