Legal battle brewing over Sonoma Developmental Center re-use plans
Written by If braced against failure in a major earthquake, SDC's Sonoma House might become a boutique hotel
photo credit: Marc Albert/KRCB
Two local environmental groups are awaiting a case number and initial hearing date, after filing a lawsuit against the county over re-use plans for the sprawling, Sonoma Developmental Center.
The twelve page petition accuses the county of failing to adequately study the impacts of turning the abandoned 945-acre campus into a thriving new town.
"They basically didn't do a good enough job on the EIR," said Tracy Salcedo a school librarian in Glen Ellen and spokesperson for one of the two groups, Sonoma Community Advocates for a Liveable environment, or SCALE.
Salcedo doesn't fault the county over it's outreach, but the groups do allege glaring faults, questioning findings that a new town wouldn't seriously lengthen evacuations during wildfire.
"Their report, their analysis says that adding all of these homes and businesses and even a hotel would only add up to one point two minutes to travel time to get out of here in the event of a wildfire, and that's just, you know, it defies logic."
To Salcedo and others who have survived several evacuations in recent years, the conclusion appears ridiculous.
"Having people backed up in that kind of traffic jam during a wildfire event is... it's a bad environment, right? That is an environmental impact that needs to be mitigated. It is not adequately mitigated in the existing EIR."
County officials counter that changes to evacuation plans, and gradually emptying areas by zone makes a repeat of the harrowing escapes from the Nuns and Tubbs fires highly unlikely.
The suit takes issue with many other aspects of the environmental documents, including impacts to water, wildlife, construction, and open space, along with biological and historic resources.
But critics are keenly focused on the eventual scale of the development, warning that incentives, allowances and bonuses to encourage certain types of residential construction would result in far more than the 620 dwellings listed in the plan.
Many neighbors are demanding no more than 450 homes.
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