Court Denies Review for Airport Permit Decision

     (CN) – Sacramento County’s refusal to renew a permit for a private airport is not subject to environmental review, the California Supreme Court ruled, reversing a lower court’s ruling for the airport.

     The owners and users of Sunset Sky Ranch Airport in Elk Grove, Calif., said the county’s choice to not renew the airport’s conditional use permit constituted a project requiring environmental review under the California Environmental Quality Act.
     The choice was not a project, the state high court ruled, “because the county did not ‘directly undertake’ to close the airport.” It just decided not to reissue a permit, the ruling states. “[P]rojects rejected by a public agency are specifically exempted from CEQA requirements,” Justice Carol Corrigan wrote.
     In 2004, the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors denied permit renewal because the use of the land for an airport had “been determined to no longer be compatible with its surroundings,” Corrigan wrote, including new neighborhoods and plans for a school. The board said it was not revoking an existing permit, which may be a reviewable action, but was deciding not to renew an expired one.
     The California Supreme Court upheld the board’s decision.
     Under California Environmental Quality Act guidelines, “The term ‘project’ refers to the activity which is being approved and which may be subject to several discretionary approvals by governmental agencies. The term ‘project’ does not mean each separate government approval.”
     “Our state legislators evidently concluded that public agencies should not be forced to commit their resources to the costly and time-consuming environmental review process for proposed private development projects slated for rejection, whatever the reason for agency disapproval,” Corrigan wrote.

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