Farm group sues to stop Yolo County prison plan
» October 16, 2008 «
Saying it needed to act to encourage responsible land use and protect rural communities, family farmers filed suit today to block approval of a prison planned for a parcel of Yolo County farmland.
In its suit, the Yolo County Farm Bureau said county supervisors violated state and local laws when they voted last month to approve construction of the prison on a 15-acre block of land near the farm town of Madison. The county hopes to qualify for $30 million in jail-improvement money by allowing the state to build a "re-entry prison" for up to 500 inmates in the county.
"In their rush to qualify for the state jail-improvement money, the supervisors ignored state environmental law, state farmland-conservation law and the county's own general plan," said Chris Scheuring, managing counsel of the California Farm Bureau Federation Natural Resources and Environmental Division. The California Farm Bureau represents Yolo County Farm Bureau in the case.
The lawsuit says the proposed prison will have a significant environmental impact on farmland, but that Yolo County failed to conduct a required environmental review before approving the prison site. It says the county violated the farmland-conservation law known as the Williamson Act by failing to notify the state of plans to build a prison within an agricultural preserve. Further, the lawsuit says the prison plan violates the Yolo County general plan, under which the county pledges to protect agricultural land and discourage urban sprawl.
"We recognize the need for new prisons, but an alfalfa field surrounded by other farmland is just the wrong place for this type of facility. It's checkerboard development of the worst kind," Scheuring said. "The state law encouraging construction of new re-entry prisons makes it clear that they should be built in urban areas. Yolo County needs to start over and make these decisions in the right way with the proper oversight."
The Yolo County Farm Bureau represents more than 1,300 members who work to protect the county's farms, ranches and rural environment. The California Farm Bureau Federation, the state's largest farm organization, works to protect family farms and ranches on behalf of 91,000 members statewide.
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