COLAB loses court round over SLO County's smart-growth rules

Three-judge panel says property-rights group failed to prove its claim that SLO County’s smart-growth policies should be subject to environmental review

bcuddy@thetribunenews.comOctober 31, 2012 

A state appellate court has rejected the argument by a local property-rights group that San Luis Obispo County’s smart-growth policies should be subject to an environmental impact report.

The 2nd District Court of Appeals upheld an earlier ruling by San Luis Obispo Superior County Judge Martin Tangeman against the Coalition of Labor, Agriculture and Business.

COLAB had argued that the county’s smart-growth policies, adopted in 2005 and later revised to reflect public comment, trigger a need for environmental review under the state’s Environmental Quality Act.

In a decision announced Tuesday, Associate Justice Judge Kenneth R. Yegan, in a decision also signed by Presiding Judge Arthur Gilbert and Associate Justice Steven Z. Perren, said COLAB failed to prove its case.

“COLAB does not reference any evidence … supporting its position,” the justices wrote. “It also mistakenly represents both the content and potential effect” of the policies, they wrote.

In making its decision, the court drew on some of Tangeman’s earlier remarks, including his comment that COLAB’s “criticism (of the county’s policies) was ideological.”

Mike Brown of COLAB said he was disappointed by the decision. He also said COLAB “made a good effort to get the county to be held to the same standards it holds everybody else to.”

Brown also rejected the notion that COLAB’s suit was ideological. He said the organization has no plans to appeal the decision further.

County Supervisor Adam Hill applauded the decision, calling it a “good victory for the county” and its policies.

Smart growth is a generic term that generally describes efforts by government to control where and how growth occurs. It includes such guidelines as directing growth to urban and away from rural areas; preserving open space and farmland; encouraging community participation; and strengthening regional cooperation in land use.

The county’s policies go into detail on those and other smart-growth principles.

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