The city of Gilroy broke the law when it approved the annexation of 721 acres of farmland for a planned 4000-home development, the county’s Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) alleged in a lawsuit Wednesday.
The suit against the South County municipality, which was filed in Santa Clara County Superior Court, contends that the Dec. 7 approval, introduced by then-councilman Perry Woodward and approved on a 4-3 vote, was “improper” and that “Gilroy violated CEQA (the California Environmental Quality Act) in numerous ways.”
Woodward was named mayor on Jan. 4 following ex-mayor Don Gage’s resignation.
The suit contends that “Gilroy failed to identify and adequately analyze” impacts on water supply and police and fire services. The pleadings also note that the “site consists of largely prime agricultural land and that the City wants to include these lands in its [Urban Service Area] even as the City has substantial amounts of land within its current boundaries that are vacant or underutilized.”
The agency asks the court “to set aside certification of the EIR,” to rescind all actions related to its approval and reimburse the state-mandated county agency’s costs. “LAFCO has incurred and will incur substantial attorneys' fees and litigation costs because of Respondents’ unlawful acts. ...LAFCO is entitled to be reimbursed for its attorneys' fees and costs.”
Mayor Woodward downplayed the seriousness of the suit. “We will work with LAFCO to make sure their concerns are addressed,” he said. “When you have two public agencies, they will work together to find common ground.”
The project’s lead developer is Skip Spiering, who has taken Woodward out on duck hunting expeditions.
LAFCO members include Gilroy councilmember Cat Tucker, the current chair, county supervisors Mike Wasserman and Ken Yeager, Morgan Hill attorney Susan Vicklund Wilson, San Jose councilmember Johnny Khamis, open space district commissioner Sequoia Hall and water district board member Linda Lezotte. County supervisor Cindy Chavez just stepped aside as a commissioner but remains an alternate.
Between the 721-acre plan and other contemplated developments, the population of Gilroy would increase from 57,723 to 120,637, according to a 2014 study by San Jose-based Hexagon Transportation Consultants. Hexagon projects that morning rush hour trips on Highway 101 would nearly double from 20,438 to 39,763.