The Tucson-based Center for Biological Diversity sued Lake County and the developers of a major resort and residential project last Thursday, claiming the plan was approved without adequate environmental review.
“The massive wildfire currently threatening the site highlights the dangerous absurdity of approving a big development in this fire-prone place,” said Peter Broderick, a staff attorney for the environmental group, in a statement issued on Aug. 21. “If this luxury resort were already built, residents would be frantically evacuating right now. By approving this project, Lake County put the prospect of development dollars ahead of the safety of the region’s residents and the fragile environment of this beautiful place.”
The first phase of the Guenoc Valley Mixed-Use Planned Development Project includes five hotels with 127 hotel units, 141 resort residential units, 385 residential estate villas, two wineries, and various resort amenities and infrastructure.
The Lake County Board of Supervisors approved the project on July 21. At the time, Board Chair Moke Simon said the “unprecedented” project would transform the county and generate a tremendous economic boost, including through increased property taxes and transient occupancy taxes.
The lawsuit claims the project is inconsistent with the county’s General Plan, and that its environmental impact report (EIR) violates the California Environmental Quality Act.
The EIR concluded that the project and its wildfire prevention plan would reduce the risk of wildfires on the 16,000-acre site, a portion of which has burned during the LNU Lightning Complex fire.
The project proposes a new fire and emergency response center, an advanced fire detection and notification system, and a float plane dock and emergency helipads that could be used by firefighting aircraft.
While the Board of Supervisors was reviewing the project, officials with the state Department of Justice sent two letters arguing that the EIR didn’t adequately analyze the risk of wildfires. Even after developers made last-minute changes, including the removal of 16 proposed lots on dead-end roads, the Department of Justice maintained that the analysis was “inadequate.”
“The California attorney general has repeatedly raised concerns about the county’s failure to analyze the increased risk of wildfire ignitions from the development and how the project would affect wildfire evacuations in the region,” the Center for Biological Diversity said in a statement. “Located in a remote area of the state with a long history of wildfires, the project site is accessible only by a single two-lane road. Many fires are ignited by human sources, so development increases fire risk.”
Lake County representatives and an attorney for the developers could not be reached for comment.