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Restraining Order Placed On Wildcat Ranch Sale Closing

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Sonora, CA – A temporary restraining order is the latest development in a contested sale lawsuit pitting Wildcat Ranch supporters against those who want to see it become a community park.

As reported here, last month the Tuolumne County Farm Bureau filed suit against Sonora Union High School District (SUHSD) to block the partial sale of the district’s Wildcat Ranch property to the nonprofit Park Foundation, citing Brown Act and other violations.

It also accused the outgoing board of district trustees who approved the sale last December of short-shifting agricultural education for cash flow. Located at Tuolumne and Wards Ferry roads, the property, owned by the district since the mid-1980s, houses the school’s ag ed program and cross-country track.

With escrow set to close at the end of the month, well ahead of the first court date for the lawsuit in June, the Farm Bureau filed for relief, seeking an injunction, as reported here. Ahead of issuing the restraining order on Thursday afternoon, Judge Kevin Seibert pointed out that the district has yet to provide adequate evidence to the court that it legally fulfilled all the requirements for conducting official noticing about the sale. He explained, “We expect to see the best evidence…it should not have been hard to get.”

He added that the restraining order would maintain the status quo until the district supplies the missing documents and emphasized that it was in no way a decision about the sale itself or the district’s right to sell the property by statute as long as it meets all the related requirements. The judge reminded the involved parties that if an injunction is granted to the petitioners that a hefty bond would be required.

SUHSD Superintendent Dr. Mark Miller spoke to Clarke Broadcasting following the hearing. Miller comments, “Obviously we are disappointed. We were hoping it would go our way. Given that, we are going to meet with counsel and discuss what the judge ruled and we will figure out the next steps from there. Park Foundation officials declined to comment.

Farm Bureau spokesperson Shaun Crook acknowledges, “We are pleased with the progress today in court.” Opining, he adds, “For whatever reason, the previous school board was in such a rush to sell the property to the Park Foundation, that they violated the law and the public trust on multiple occasions. This was eloquently laid out and made apparent in court today.”

The judge set the next hearing on the matter for April 12 at 11 a.m.

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