Thursday, December 17, 2009

The I.M.P.A.C.T. of E.I.R.s...

I was doing some research on a local smart growth community that has found its plans somewhat delayed because of the Army Corps of Engineers amazingly long (and some might argue bureaucratically-wasteful) environmental impact reporting process.

While doing so, I came across a couple of recent news articles on the EIR topic.  First, this one where smart growth proponents are challenging an EIR:

The project is also facing some opposition. South County Citizens for Smart Growth has filed a lawsuit contesting the EIR, which the group says is inadequate. Spokeswoman Margaret Joehnck, who lives near Lake of the Pines, said the group was reactivated about two-and-a-half years ago specifically to challenge Higgins Marketplace. Joehnck said she wasn’t very surprised the development received county approval.

“There’s a real bias toward trying to have development, whether it is wanted or not,” she said. “I think that’s what we’re seeing.” Ideally, Joehnck would have liked to see the project turned down. “We’d prefer not to have it all,” she said. “Whether this can stop it is the question. The lawsuit is about the inadequacy of the EIR, so they could at some point come back and make changes.”

Meanwhile, this article discusses a smart growth community that had to revise its own EIR to proceed forward:

The development's second phase - The Village - is planned for 111 acres within the master-planned community near Marina del Rey, adding 2,600 more homes and new shops, offices and community uses. Construction on the project was halted in 2007 when an appellate court ruled that The Village's environmental impact report was flawed.

The decision forced Playa Vista to revise its EIR and seek various land-use amendments. At least one of the plaintiffs in the case said he still opposes the project as planned and is pursuing another lawsuit.

Both lead to an interesting question: is an EIR a smart growth-friendly or not friendly regulatory tool?

While EIRs, at least in concept, are designed to mitigate negative environmental impacts, I've found them in several cases to actually hinder dense and compact development.  Has anyone else dealt with this issue?

--Chad Emerson, Faulkner U.

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