| SIERRA CLUB
CENTER FOR BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 26, 2006
Contact: Sierra Club, Joan Taylor 760-408-2488
New Lawsuit Filed against Shadowrock Development
Conservation Groups Challenge Secret 11th Hour Deal
PALM SPRINGS, Calif. – Two conservation groups filed a lawsuit today in California Superior Court seeking to reverse a decision by the City of Palm Springs to extend a Development Agreement for a 405-unit golf resort development in habitat for endangered bighorn sheep in Chino Canyon at the entrance to Palm Springs.
The lawsuit by the Sierra Club and the Center for Biological Diversity challenges the City of Palm Springs’ attempt to bypass a pending citizen referendum and to extend the Development Agreement for the Shadowrock project on the day it expired, June 29, 2006. The City purported to extend the agreement by the unorthodox means of a letter from the City Attorney, written on the agreement’s expiration date and granting the developer an undetermined amount of additional time in which to build the project. In the letter, the City Attorney characterizes his decision as a “force majeure” extension, thereby invoking a contract clause that allows the developer more time to accommodate “acts of God” and alleges permitting delays by other agencies.
In their lawsuit, the conservation groups assert that responsibility for the delays lies solely with Shadowrock developer, who delayed six months before submitting the required application for a needed permit. The groups also allege that the Development Agreement could not be extended simply by a letter from City staff but in fact required a vote by the City Council. The lawsuit asks the court to vacate the Development Agreement extension and to find that the original agreement has expired.
“Apparently, when the developer realized the extension he got from the City Council was subject to being overturned by the citizens, he applied to the City Attorney for a back-door extension,” said Joan Taylor, Sierra Club representative. “We see this as an end run around the public process and a denial of the right of Palm Springs voters to decide up or down on this ill-advised project.”
In May of this year, the Palm Springs City Council disregarded an unanimous vote of the Planning Commission which recommended denial of any extension for the Shadowrock Development Agreement. By a split vote (Foat and Pougnet dissenting), the City Council passed an ordinance extending for 10 more years the already 13-year-old Shadowrock agreement. But local citizens spearheaded by Save Our Mountains rallied in mid-June when they submitted formal petitions to put the Council’s decision to a public vote. The petitions stayed the Council’s approval of the extension and forced the City to either rescind the decision or place the ordinance on the ballot. Subsequently, the City Council voted to place the Shadowrock Referendum on the November 2007 ballot.
“The City Attorney’s 11th-hour action flies in the face of democratic due process and reflects very poorly on the City’s willingness to protect people and nature from aggressive developers,” said David Hogan, Director of the Urban Wildlands Program at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The Shadowrock project would block a critical movement corridor for endangered Peninsular Bighorn Sheep, and could cause the demise of this magnificent species.”
The Shadowrock project is located in an area that state, federal and independent biologists say is critical to the survival of endangered Peninsular Bighorn Sheep. The San Jacinto population of bighorn has declined to only a fraction of its historic numbers. In order for the bighorn to recover, they need to have an unimpeded movement corridor across a desert canyon, which would be blocked by the Shadowrock project.
The conservation group’s lawsuit is the third so far against the ill-planned Shadowrock development. Prior lawsuits concerning the Shadowrock development include a 1997 Sierra Club challenge under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and a suit filed in June of this year under CEQA and State Planning and Zoning law.