Oak Woodlands Management Plan (OWMP) Legal Decision
Oak Woodlands Management Plan (OWMP) Legal Decision: In a recent decision the California Third District Court of Appeals found that the EDC OWMP is not adequate to support the off site (Option B) oak mitigation fee as reported in our last issue. The appeal was based on an original legal decision that found in favor of EDC, and arose from EDC’s adoption of an Oak Woodland Management Plan (OWMP) that will ultimately be part of the yet-to-be completed Integrated Natural Resource Management Plan (INRMP).
In developing the OWMP the county issued a “negative declaration” instead of an EIR, on the basis that the OWMP is a mitigation plan as contained within the General Plan (GP), and knowing the INRMP would further address wildlife movement issues. The BOS concluded the environmental impacts were established in the GP’s environmental review process and no EIR was needed for a simple mitigation program. The OWMP offered a method for landowners of developing properties to pay a fee to mitigate for loss of oaks on their project site. The INRMP will consider and establish wildlife corridors/mitigations for loss of wildlife connectivity, based on lands designated for economic and residential development within the GP.
In the recent decision the Court addressed protection of connectivity as well as oak protections established. The basis for this consideration was apparently made by the consultants hired by EDC to develop the OWMP. On a map produced for BOS review, instead of indicating all connections that link protected lands (forests, BLM-owned, new oak woodland areas) the consultants presented a map that didn’t show all connections and that map was rejected by the BOS. For example the GP created Important Biological Corridors (IBCs) to help provide species movement. Without those connections represented, the Oak Woodlands area could appear to be disconnected as far as habitat movement is concerned. It appears the Courts considered the consultant’s view, even though not adopted by the BOS as representative of what they’d asked for, when ruling on the appeal as they cited the consultant’s claims regarding lack of connectivity.
It should be noted that when California law mandated protection of specific oak species, the state also established protections under CEQA for those efforts. It does not appear the Court considered those CEQA protections in EDC’s efforts.
The Business Alliance…Update is a bi-monthly publication of the El Dorado Business Alliance (BA). The BA is made up of the following organizations: El Dorado Builders’ Exchange, El Dorado County Association of Realtors (EDCAR), El Dorado County Chamber of Commerce, North State Building Industry Association (NSBIA) and Shingle Springs-Cameron Park Chamber of Commerce. Web Address for Subscription Info: KathyeRussell@gmail.com “Developing Mutual Support on Community-Wide Issues”
In reviewing the Court’s decision – though without benefit of the case’s legal arguments and defense - the court appears to have narrowed their decision to only the matter of the OWMP fee and lack of environmental support for it. The bottom line is that the fastest most economical means of handling this court ruling appears to be compliance with the Courts’ ruling that the county undertake a tiered EIR for the OWMP to substantiate the fees being charged. It is likely the prior GP environmental documentation already done will go a long way in supporting a tiered EIR to make the process relatively quick and clean in support of an oak protection fee or modification of same.
The Business Alliance…Update is a bi-monthly publication of the El Dorado Business Alliance (BA). The BA is made up of the following organizations: El Dorado Builders’ Exchange, El Dorado County Association of Realtors (EDCAR), El Dorado County Chamber of Commerce, North State Building Industry Association (NSBIA) and Shingle Springs-Cameron Park Chamber of Commerce. Web Address for Subscription Info: KathyeRussell@gmail.com