Conservancy litigation results in withdrawal of illegal rezone

Litigation filed by the Foothill Conservancy and the Friends of Greater Ione early this year has successfully led to the withdrawal of a controversial land use plan in western Amador County.

The litigation was triggered by a bad decision made by the Amador County Board of Supervisors the previous December - against the advice of the Amador County Planning Commission - to approve the rezoning of 1.8 square miles (1,100 acres) of low-density residential and grazing land west of Ione (known as the “Edwin Lands”) for industrial use.


We felt that the decision was bad land-use planning, as did the planning commission. Not only did the county decision fail to adequately consider community and environmental impacts, it also violated the California Environmental Quality Act and the Amador County General Plan. Significantly, it  also ignored important new information about groundwater constraints in the Cosumnes River Subbasin, where the project was located and where a groundwater sustainability plan is being developed.

The litigation was never heard in the Amador County Superior Court. The project proponent, Edwin Lands LLC, requested settlement discussions, instead. After months of Zoom meetings and negotiations, the developer asked Amador County to reverse the controversial land-use decision so the case could be dismissed. On June 8, the supervisors did just that, reversing their previous decision and returning the land in question to its prior zoning.

After further negotiations, Edwin Lands agreed to reimburse the county, Foothill Conservancy, and the Friends of Greater Ione for their related legal fees and expenses. On Aug. 12, 2021, our attorney, Michael Graf of El Cerrito, filed a Request for Dismissal in the Amador County Superior Court.

We are pleased that the county reversed its decision, but regret that it took a lawsuit to achieve this outcome. This was only the fourth lawsuit we’ve filed in our 31-year history. We much prefer to work with project applicants and local governments to resolve conflicts, but at times, litigation is the only remaining option.

We’d like to thank everyone whose donations and hard work led to this outcome.

We will continue to work with the Friends of Greater Ione to preserve agricultural uses in the Edwin Lands area and to promote future development that is based on sound planning principles and considers community and environmental interests.

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Leslie Smith, Sutter Creek, CA: Raised in Washington State, Leslie is a happy California transplant having moved to Sunny Sutter Creek full time in 2020. As a nascent fly fisher and lifelong skier, she is committed to the natural environment and brings extensive organizational and finance experience to the board from a nearly 40 year career in banking.