Agenda error forces supes to cancel closed session
|The battle over the proposed four-season resort on Dyer Mountain near Westwood continues. Due to the requirements of the Brown Act, California’s Open Meeting Law, the Lassen County Board of Supervisors had to reschedule a planned April 23 closed session meeting with legal counsel regarding an appeal of the county’s Environmental Impact Report of the resort by environmental groups because the agenda listed the wrong court case number. The board rescheduled the closed session meeting for next month.File photo|
April 30, 2013 — Lassen County’s Board of Supervisors was forced to cancel an afternoon closed session meeting after it discovered the agenda misidentified the court case to be discussed.
Lassen County Administrative Officer Martin Nichols acknowledged the error and said he is the person responsible for providing the information county staff members use to create the agenda, but he said he had no idea how the agenda for the unusual 1:30 p.m. closed session meeting regarding existing litigation between Lassen County and environmental groups included a citation of the wrong court case.
“We scheduled a closed session to talk about the Dyer Mountain litigation,” Nichols said. “I had delegated it to someone else to come up with the citation with the case number. Somebody did, but I didn’t check it, and when (former Lassen County Counsel) Rick (Crabtree) got here, he looked at it and said, ‘That’s the wrong case.’ So we didn’t have an option under the Brown Act except to reschedule it. We had the wrong case. We cited it incorrectly.”
Nichols said the closed session discussion has been rescheduled for the May 14.
Crabtree, who now serves as Red Bluff’s city manager, continues to represent the county as special counsel on the challenge to the adequacy of the Environmental Impact Report the county produced for the Dyer Mountain project after nearly 63 percent of Lassen County voters approved a November 2000 ballot initiative that amended the county’s General Plan, Zoning Ordinance and Westwood Area Plan to allow the development of a four-season resort near Westwood.
Three environmental groups —Mountain Meadows Conservancy, the Sierra Club and Sierra Watch — sued the county in Lassen Superior Court over the adequacy of the report.
The environmental groups allege the county did not follow California environmental law in certifying the project’s Environmental Impact Report, development agreement and tentative parcel map for the resort.
In September 2007, the board of supervisors approved the EIR and a large-lot parcel map dividing the resort property into 13 parcels ranging in size from 40 to 1,118 acres. Then the board approved the development agreement in October.
Dyer Mountain Associates, the project’s former owner, planned to build, or have other developers build, three golf courses, ski runs, more than 4,000 houses and condos, and commercial and retail projects.
In December 2010, Lassen County Superior Court Judge Donald Sokol denied a request for a writ of mandate from the three environmental groups and issued a ruling that supports the county’s environmental review of the project.
The environmental groups appealed Sokol’s decision, and “That case is currently before the Third District Court of Appeals,” Nichols said, “and the purpose of the agenda (item) was to give the board an update on the status of the litigation. It was just an honest mistake, and there really wasn’t any legal option, anyway. We said we’re sorry for the mistake, and we’ll have to start over again.”
Despite the court case, a rapidly approaching deadline also may affect the future of the proposed development.
Richard Egan, Lassen County’s tax collector, said the project’s current developers, Dyer Management, LLC, owes the county about $3.2 million in back taxes. Egan said the entire tax bill is due by June 30. The developers are charged an annual interest rate of 18 percent on the back taxes, and Egan said the amount owed will continue to increase through the deadline.
If the delinquent tax bill, which extends back five years, is not paid by the deadline, the county may initiate a process to sell the property to satisfy the tax debt.
Westwood resident Eileen Spencer accused the board of violating the Brown Act over the mistake on the agenda and the timing of public comment regarding the closed session.
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