California Farm Bureau Federation files suit against Merced County
» January 18, 2007 «
Lawsuit aims to halt the loss of Ag Preserve farmland to development
Stating that the county of Merced must remain true to the provisions of its general plan, the California Farm Bureau Federation, on behalf of the Merced County Farm Bureau, filed suit today against the county and the Riverside Motorsports Park, in an effort to halt the development of nearly 1,200 acres of farmland protected under the California Environmental Quality Act and other laws.
The proposed Riverside Motorsports Park development would encroach upon land that is in an agricultural preserve and would be in direct conflict with the county's original general plan to keep that land available for Williamson Act protection.
"As farmers in this community we have worked very hard to assist in creating a general plan that recognizes the numerous contributions we make to Merced County. We felt secure knowing that there were designated areas of the county that were protected for agriculture and now our trust has been broken," said Louie Bandoni, president of the Merced County Farm Bureau.
"The only exception in converting or rezoning an area from farming to a non-agricultural use is if a clear and immediate need for conversion is established. The Riverside Motorsports Park has at least one or more alternative locations that would not take ag preserve land out of agriculture. Simply building a racetrack does not constitute a clear and immediate need for the conversion of this particular piece of productive farmland," Bandoni said.
When counties create general plans, they in essence have established a blueprint for land-use decisions, including where growth may occur and how farmland will be protected from that growth.
"The decision by the Merced County board of supervisors demonstrates that they have no regard for the collaborative process of community members creating a general plan. It is incumbent upon the county to walk the talk now and show their respect for the people who created the general plan and abide by the decisions that were made," said Paul Wenger, first vice president of the California Farm Bureau.
The California Farm Bureau Federation, the state's largest farm organization, works to protect family farms and ranches on behalf of nearly 92,000 members.
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