Developers threaten lawsuit over Rancho Hills development

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The developers of a contended 71-home project planned for Rancho
Hills Drive in northwest Gilroy last week promised legal action if
the Gilroy City Council did not approve one of the development’s
crucial final stages.
The developers of a contended 71-home project planned for Rancho Hills Drive in northwest Gilroy last week promised legal action if the Gilroy City Council did not approve one of the development’s crucial final stages.

In a July 28 letter to Mayor Al Pinheiro and the Council, San Francisco-based real estate attorney Andrew B. Sabey, writing on behalf of the Glen Loma Corporation and Arcadia Development Company, said the city would be subject to “substantial damages” if it did not approve the project’s final map, one of the final hurdles before construction.

The Council was scheduled to vote on the matter Monday night.

Council members voted 4-3 on July 18 to delay the vote until Monday night’s meeting, the maximum time it could be extended, City Attorney Linda Callon said. The Council also approved a third-party review of the project, which revealed the final maps were in compliance and should be approved, according to a comprehensive city staff report.

The review, conducted by CSG Consultants, cost the city between $3,000 and $4,000 because of the quick turnaround, said Kristi Abrams, the city’s community development director.

Callon said state law required the city to approve the final map because staff found it was in compliance with a previously approved tentative map.

Attempting to delay the vote again or voting the map the down would cost the city even more, wrote Sabey, a partner at Cox, Castile & Nicholson, LLP.

“The Council’s failure or refusal to approve the Rancho Hills map and agreement will expose the City to significant legal liabilities,” he wrote.

Sabey added, “This delay was inappropriate … the Council has no discretion to deny approval of the final map because it is in substantial conformance with the tentative map.”

Councilman Perry Woodward, who voted in favor of the delay to allow residents more time to examine the maps, said the letter didn’t bring startling news.

“It didn’t say anything we didn’t already know.” Woodward said. “They just said it in a more chest-pounding way.”

Councilman Bob Dillon, who cautioned the Council on July 18 that the city could be sued for failing to approve the final map, said Monday afternoon he wanted a more in-depth explanation from staff regarding the letter before voting.

“I’m not really sure what they’re trying to say,” said Dillon, who voted against delaying the decision July 18. “I think they make some good points, but I have to hear what our side’s got to say about it.”

The Council approved the project’s tentative map in January 2007. When the project’s allotments via the city’s residential development ordinance expired, the Council voted to renew them in October 2010, according to city records.

A coalition to save the foothills began in May when residents noticed grading and surveying work had begun on the property, located at the base of rolling, foothills full of wildlife. Neighbors sent the city more than 370 letters and emails protesting the project, and many frustrated residents spoke out during public comment periods at a July 6 community meeting at Christopher High School and during the July 18 Council meeting.

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