The Yuba County Board of Supervisors approved the 5,100-unit Yuba Highlands project on Tuesday, July 10, after nearly seven years of planning and negotiation with developer Gary Gallelli.

Now it appears the action will shift to the courtroom.

At least seven state, regional and local agencies called the project's environmental impact report inadequate, and most of those entities appear ready to seek relief in court. For example, the Department of Fish and Game says the EIR understates the project's impact on wildlife at an adjacent state wildlife area. Caltrans is dissatisfied with the traffic analysis and mitigations. The Regional Water Quality Control Board says the project lacks water rights.

Environmentalists are staunchly opposed. They see Yuba Highlands as classic low-density, growth-inducing sprawl in an inappropriate location — about a 20-minute drive on two-lane county roads from the nearest towns, and wedged between Beale Air Force Base and Spenceville State Wildlife Area.

There is no question that the environmentalists will sue. As many as half a dozen heavyweight California Environmental Quality Act lawyers representing the county, the developer or project opponents have attended recent hearings.

Project defenders, however, point to the site's location outside of the floodplain. Yuba County has received extensive criticism over the years for approving subdivisions on flood prone agricultural land. The 2,900-acre Yuba Highlands site is in the foothills on the Sacramento Valley's east side.

On Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 to approve a community plan amendment, an area plan, zoning and a development agreement. The project still needs master plans, subdivision maps and use permits before construction may commence.

You can read more about Yuba Highlands in the Local Watch department of our June edition. To check out the latest staff reports, click here, then on the 07/10/2007 meeting. Yuba Highlands is item XIII. The Marysville Appeal-Democrat had coverage on Wednesday and Thursday.