Grass Valley City Council Ignores CEQA Guidelines in Last Night’s Whispering Pines Decision
The Grass valley City Council last night voted 3 (Jason Fouyer, Howard Levine, Ben Aguilar) to 2 (Jan Arbuckle, Lisa Swarthout) to adopt an ordinance that includes (1) amendments to the Whispering Pines Business Park Specific Plan and (2) the adoption of a Negative Declaration as “the appropriate level of environmental review” of these amendments.
Who’s behind this application? And what does it mean?
The proposal, submitted by applicant David Watkinson, CEO of Emgold Mining Corporation, a Canadian mining company, was first discussed in the Planning Commission meeting of March 15th. The minutes from that meeting include this description:
“Whispering Pines Specific Plan Text Amendments (15PLN-31) of the SP-1A Corporate Business Park. The text amendments will modify the allowable uses in the SP-1A Corporate Business Park Zone to allow Manufacturing/Processing and Manufacturing — Small Shop uses, including food products, drugs and cosmetics, chemical laboratories, dry cleaning, incubator units and metal fabrication uses. The text amendments will apply to the entire SP-1A properties. No specific development is proposed at this time. Environmental Determination: Negative Declaration.”
Environmental law attorney Marsha Burch spoke during the meeting on behalf of Daniel and Linda Ketcham, who live next to Whispering Pines. In a letter she sent to the Council prior to the meeting, Burch said
“It is unclear from the record documents why the City is processing a text amendment to the Specific Plan through a private application where no development project is being proposed. While the City may understandably wish to avoid the costs associated with extensive environmental review, the ND [Negative Declaration] does not fulfill the City’s obligations under CEQA. It is our view that an Environmental Impact Report (“EIR”) is required for the Project.”
The complete text of her letter is here.
And here’s a short video of her statement to the council last night.
Here’s Watkinson speaking for himself about his concern for the marketability of his property, followed by a short comment from Linda Ketchum, reminding him that he should have been aware of the restrictions on his property at the time he purchased it.