Oakley, Greenbelt Alliance settle lawsuit over farmland

Paul Burgarino

The city will set aside millions of dollars in compensation for farmland where thousands of homes are one day expected, according to a lawsuit settlement with the Greenbelt Alliance announced Monday.

Oakley will set up a fund to preserve farmland to offset the loss of 828 acres along the East Cypress corridor in the city’s northeast, where more than 3,600 homes are planned.

The fund will total $6.8 million and come from developers, City Manager Bryan Montgomery said.

Money will be spent first on protecting farmland in Contra Costa County but can also be used to preserve Delta farmlands in portions of Solano, Sacramento, San Joaquin and Yolo counties.

“We’re excited that this settlement sends a clear message not only in Contra Costa County but in the Bay Area and across the state that if farmland is lost to development, additional farmland must be preserved to account for that loss,” said Jeremy Madsen, Greenbelt’s executive director.

Oakley will send money collected from developers to the San Francisco Foundation, which will issue grants for fee title acquisition of eligible farmland and other related activities, according to the settlement.

Friday’s settlement in Contra Costa Superior Court ends a five-year legal battle between the city and environmental advocacy group Greenbelt Alliance.

It also clears the way for development of the area.

“The resolution of this issue is a tremendous achievement for Oakley,” Montgomery said. “Protecting farmland is a good thing.”

In addition to the new homes in the area known as Hotchkiss Tract, the East Cypress plans call for construction of new levees and rural roads and clean water programs to prevent untreated water from entering the Delta, Montgomery said.

Greenbelt Alliance sued the city in 2006, claiming that the East Cypress development plan failed to address environmental concerns and was inappropriate for a floodplain.

The lawsuit forced the city to re-evaluate the loss of farmland and effect on air quality.

Greenbelt Alliance again sued the city, and in 2009 a Contra Costa Superior Court judge said Oakley must find better ways to offset the lost farmland.

 

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