Ranchos seeks to halt eminent domain (December 18, 2015)

Water company petitions court

APPLE VALLEY — The Apple Valley Ranchos Water Co. wants any further action on Apple Valley’s attempt to acquire it to be suspended until the town’s final Environmental Impact Report is in full compliance with California Environmental Quality Act criteria, according to a statement released Thursday by Ranchos officials.

The Town Council unanimously approved the final EIR and two separate Resolutions of Necessity to take Ranchos’ water system by eminent domain in November during a special meeting.

Following the Council’s approval, CEQA requirements dictate that the parties meet and attempt to settle the dispute, according to a statement released by the town.

But on Wednesday, Ranchos petitioned the Superior Court of San Bernardino County with a request for suspension of any action related to eminent domain and cited multiple violations in the town’s final EIR that the company believes resulted in failure to comply with CEQA.

In response to the legal action taken by Ranchos, the town contended on Thursday that the disputed EIR was prepared as part of a transparent evaluation process involving multiple public meetings, the solicitation of public comments, response to those comments and hours of testimony before the Town Council.

Apple Valley spokeswoman Kathie Martin said the town intends to vigorously defend itself against the lawsuit.

While the Town is still reviewing the lawsuit, Martin said in a statement, it is confident that its CEQA process complied with all procedural and substantive requirements of the law.

The multiple alleged violations cited by Ranchos in the petition included a lack of any operational plan if the Town acquired the water system and an admission by the Town that it does not know who would operate the water system if it were acquired nor any consideration of another public agency or private company that might operate it.

We are requesting the court instruct the Town to suspend any future actions or decisions related to eminent domain until their EIR complies with all requirements of CEQA, Ranchos General Manager Tony Penna said. We have maintained from the start of the Town government’s takeover attempt that this process will be extremely costly to taxpayers in Apple Valley, divide this community and take a long time.

Source: Matthew Cabe, Daily Press