The massive Tejon Ranch development proposal passed a critical legal hurdle Wednesday when an appeals court ruled its first environmental impact report is legally adequate.
The case concerned the first proposed development, the Tejon Mountain Village. It would bring 3,450 homes to an undeveloped area near Frazier Park.
If ultimately constructed as now proposed, the rest of the project would bring more than 60,000 more new homes and hundreds of hotels, restaurants, stores and shops to the mountains near the Grapevine. It will include two 18-hole golf courses, two helipads, riding and hiking trails, community centers, and its own water treatment facilities and electrical substation.
It would be built on property owned by the Tejon Ranch just east of Interstate 5, 40 miles south of Bakersfield.
Big as it is --- 26,417 acres -- the project would leave 89 percent of the 270,000-acre Tejon Ranch undeveloped.
In return for a promise to set aside 145,000 acres in nature preserves and open-space easements, a group of environmental groups agreed not to sue to stop the development of the area near the Grapevine. Those groups include the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Audubon Society of California.
But, another group of conservation groups, not included in the agreement, did sue.
They alleged the County’s EIR didn’t adequately consider the air pollution that would be created by the project, potential problems with water supply, what it might do to the endangered California Condor, and how it would treat Native American heritage sites.
The county won that case in Bakersfield court and now has won in the 5th District Court of Appeal in Fresno.
The unanimous 89-page opinion found some problems with the EIR, but ruled it met legal requirements.
"It's very disappointing," said Adam Keats, Senior Counsel for the Center on Biological Diversity. "We feel the appeals court missed many of the important arguments and got a lot of the analysis wrong. We are considering our options. We think there is a strong basis for reconsideration and are weighing seeking that from the court."