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School board gives go ahead to lawsuit

Questions about adequate schools in Village 1 leads district to initiate litigation against developer, city
By: Patty McAlpin, Reporter
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The school board voted unanimously Dec. 18 to authorize the district to initiate litigation against Lakeside Development and the city of Lincoln in reaction to the city’s approval of environmental documents over the district’s objections.

The deadline for the district to file a legal action is Jan. 2, 2013, based on the California Environmental Quality Act timeline.

Board clerk Brian Haley read out loud in open session the decision agreed upon in closed session by the Western Placer Unified School District board.

The board is initiating legal action against Lakeside Development and the city for failure to comply with the California Environmental Quality Act and the city of Lincoln General Plan with respect to approval of the specific plan for Village 1 and the Phase 1 project (Lakeside Development) within Village 1, Haley read.

The Village 1 Specific Plan area is located east of the Auburn Ravine and includes land on both the north and south side of State Highway 193. The plan area includes 1,832 acres and extends in its southeast corner out to Sierra College Boulevard and out to Stardust Lane on Highway 193. Phase 1 includes about 290.2 acres located primarily east of Auburn Ravine and north of Highway 193. This phase, called Lake Development, is on land owned by Elizabeth Layn and Jeanette Duff.

The specific plan’s land uses include 341.9 acres Country Estates, 524.4 acres of Low Density Residential, 91 acres of Medium Density Residential, 28.8 acres of High Density Residential, 39.8 acres of Mixed Use Commercial, 97.9 acres of Park, 69.9 acres of Major Paseos, and 118.2 acres of Auburn Ravine Open Space. Turkey Creek Golf Course, which has 222.6 acres, is recognized as an existing land use. One 12.1 acre elementary school site has been identified.

“The district has worked to engage Lakeside Development and the city regarding the need to plan for adequate schools to house students that will be generated within Village 1 so that its residents will have safe, nearby schools as contemplated by the city’s General Plan,” Haley read. “Despite the district’s efforts, Lakeside Development moved forward with a specific plan that did not adequately provide a plan for schools within Village 1 and did not adequately consider the impacts of growth on the district’s existing schools. The city approved this plan and Phase 1 of the project in spite of the district’s repeated requests that Lakeside Development and the city work with the district to formulate a community plan that aligns with the city’s General Plan and makes sense for the current and future residents and students in Lincoln.”

The board authorized district counsel to seek an agreement with the city to extend the statute of limitations or stay the proceedings for six months. The deadline to take action is Jan. 2, 2013.

“It is the district’s hope that during that time, Lakeside Development, the city and the school district can engage in thoughtful communication regarding shared interests to build Lincoln’s future communities,” Haley read.

Several audience members, including Western Placer Teachers Association President Mike Agrippino, applauded the board’s course of action.

Board member Damian Armitage said he hopes negotiations between the city and the district will be positive over the next couple of weeks.

“I hope we can amicably come up with a solution to benefit everyone in Lincoln,” Armitage said.

When asked by the News Messenger for a comment, Tony Frayji, project engineer for the proponents of Village 1, said, “We just got the notice this morning (Wednesday). We haven’t talked with the city or discussed this internally. We don’t know what it means. We need breathing room to figure out what’s next and what this means.”

Lincoln Mayor Stan Nader said he is “dismayed that the district has taken the issue to this level this quickly.”

Nader received word about the district’s intentions from City Attorney Jon Hobbs, who he said had been contacted by the school district’s counsel.

Nader said as far as he is concerned the city and the school district are “not done talking yet.”

The city and the school district are planning to meet in a workshop setting to work out issues related to development. A date has not been set.

“They (school officials) are being premature,” Nader said.

Hobbs said he has not been presented with nor has he had the opportunity to review any formal pleadings or legal documents.

“However, based on the information of which I am currently aware, I do not feel that the proposed lawsuit would have merit,” Hobbs said. “I find it unfortunate that the school district has chosen to spend its resources on litigation. In light of the threatened litigation, I cannot discuss the details of this matter.” 

Addressing school safety

Superintendent Scott Leaman said following the tragic shootings that took place in Newtown, Conn., Friday the district is evaluating its safety measures at the district’s 11 schools, district officials are meeting with police officers to discuss school security, school principals have been asked to inform parents about the school’s safety procedures and school officials initiated a district wide locked door environment in the short term.

Twenty elementary school students and six adults were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School Friday. The shooter was identified in the media as 20-year-old Adam Lanza, whose mother Nancy was found dead at their home prior to the school shootings. Adam Lanza took his own life after the school shootings.

Leaman said the district is trying to make sure people who do not belong on campus are not admitted but also ensure that each site maintains proper fire exits. He said the California building style of open campuses does not lend itself to a single entry and exit.

Assistant Superintendent Mary Boyle is working on a safety plan for each school site. She will be presenting the annual plan to the school board in January.

“I think the school (Sandy Hook Elementary School) did many things right,” Leaman said. “That saved a lot of kids. I would want to do the same here. We want to ensure the safety of the schools and the staff.”

Budget cuts could be reduced

Leaman told the board he plans to present a draft plan for budget reductions at the board’s Jan. 15, 2013 school board meeting. The district was initially looking at the need to make $5.3 million in reductions to balance the 2013-14 budget, but that number could drop by $2.1 million by reducing reserves from approximately 7 to 3 percent, said Audrey Kilpatrick,  assistant superintendent of business and operations. The decision is up to the board. The board’s policy has been to maintain a 5 percent reserve fund. In February, the school board is expected to take action on budget reduction recommendations.

New leadership chosen

The school board elected a new president, vice president and clerk after Superintendent Scott Leaman administered the Oath of Office to re-elected board members Paul Carras and Paul Long.

Kris Wyatt is the new president of the board, Brian Haley is the vice president and Damian Armitage is the clerk.