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Citizens For Responsible Growth Asked To Drop “Frivolous” Lawsuit

By Jeff Redoutey, co-chair of the Tuolumne County Business Council

The Tuolumne County Business Council strongly supports recent public comments by Beetle Barbour regarding the lawsuit against the Stone Mill Center by the so-called Citizens for Responsible Growth. We agree with Beetle’s observation that CFRG would be more accurately named Citizens Responsible for NO Growth, as it has been our observation that this small group of individuals has been only opposed to needed economic development in our County. We believe that improvements to our County, such as the Stone Mill Center, have numerous positive impacts for our current and future residents. Ms. Barbour did an admirable job of describing the challenges for single mothers in a community with little or no prospects for new family wage jobs.

An additional issue that is unfortunate for the vast majority of our County residents is how easy it is for a few people to unnecessarily delay and add significant costs to a permitted improvement needed in our County through the legal abuse of the CEQA system. As it currently stands, an individual or group, such as CFRG, can use a contingency fee attorney with no cost out of their pocket. The person or company who must defend their County approved project pays for legal costs as they happen and has little or no opportunity to recover their costs from their opponent when they win their court case. In many places in the world, contingency attorneys are not allowed and they do not have issues with frivolous lawsuits, such as the one currently filed against the Stone Mill Center.

The Tuolumne County Business Council believes that new projects should be embraced for their future contribution to our community, including family wage jobs, and should not be labeled as controversial due to opposition from a small number of individuals. It is the opposition groups, such as CFRG, that should be considered controversial. We join Beetle in her plea for CFRG, and their leader Barbara Farkas, to immediately withdraw their frivolous lawsuit.

Response from Barbara Farkas, President of Citizens For Responsible Growth: 

This litigation is about the consistent actions by the Developer and the Tuolumne County Board of Supervisors to ignore CEQA Law. (California Environmental Quality Act) The Planning Commission works for the BOS and approved the Negative Declaration with 19 “mitigations” and significant public input. The number of mitigations alone, was clearly a signal that an in-depth CEQA review was required for the Stone Mill Center.

Both the BOS and the Developer, ignored the demand of CEQA for an Environmental Review on the 18 acre project as requested by CFRG and the Concerned Citizens of Columbia in 2013. In regards to the Stone Mill Center, that demand was not acknowledged and through a series of exchanges of Deeds to various LLCs, the Developer replied that the SMC property was no longer a piece of the original 18 acre project as proposed in the 2012 video sales program, designed to engage Investors via Utube.

As per public comment:

I personally, have great respect for Beetle Barbour and her work at ATCAA. Her editorial reflects her continued commitment to providing for the underprivileged in our communities. This lawsuit is not about depriving those in need, it is about Due Process of the law and the persistent lack of consideration for the Community’s appeals for in-depth study with community involvement.

CFRG looks forward to positive outcomes through the litigation process for both the community, the developer and the county. Simply stated, no persons or public entities are entitled to make decisions that are, “above the law”.