‘Citizens’ sue to block Columbia apartments

By Chris Caskey, The Union Democrat June 17, 2013 12:30 pm

The Tuolumne County Citizens for Responsible Growth has filed a lawsuit accusing the county and the Board of Supervisors of skirting state environmental laws when the board allowed the Stonewood Sonora apartment complex to move forward in Columbia.

The organization, which has filed similar lawsuits to slow development projects in the past, is asking the court to halt the project until the county or developers Golden State Holdings and RC Equities completes a full environmental-impact study, which they contend is required by the California Environmental Quality Act.

The lawsuit, filed earlier this month, also seeks court costs and attorney fees.

The suit alleges the 80-unit apartment complex, to be built at Parrotts Ferry and Union Hill roads, will have a more significant impact on traffic, population density, wildlife and groundwater than assumed by county planners when the Board of Supervisors approved the project.

Citizens for Responsible Growth wants the county’s approvals overturned and a potentially costly and lengthy environmental-impact report done. The report would identify all of the potential impacts on the environment and show how the developer would avoid or lessen those impacts, according to the lawsuit.

The developer proposes constructing six residential buildings, a clubhouse, pool, and covered and uncovered parking. The developer also has interest in a long-term plan to develop almost 20 acres that would include nearby retail stores, which is also mentioned in the lawsuit.

The complex was the subject of several contentious meetings of the Columbia Area Planning Commission and the county Board of Supervisors.

The planning commission rejected a request for a special use and design review permit for the complex, and the developer appealed that decision to the Board of Supervisors. 

The board approved those requests in May, overturning the planning commission’s decision.