Late last week, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against Moreno Valley’s unorthodox approach to approval of the controversial World Logistics Center.
The appellate court decision reversed a lower court ruling made in 2016, that sided with the city and Highland Fairview, the developer, and in the process, upheld an agreement between them to construct the massive center. The five environmental groups who joined forces in the original lawsuit, held their coalition together and jointly pursued the subsequent appeal against the lower court ruling.
To by pass CEQA requirements the Moreno Valley City Council first authorized the agreement with the developer and then sought voter approval for the plan in the hopes of making it exempt from environmental challenges.
Moreno Valley officials and the World Logistic Center’s developer had sought to leverage a 2014 California Supreme Court ruling to their advantage. The ruling said voter-approved development initiatives are generally exempt from the California Environmental Quality Act. They also sought to leverage a state election law they claimed permits municipalities to approve ordinances that are part of a potential initiative if signatures supporting the measure represent 10 percent of registered voters.
Last week, the appeals court disagreed and determined that state law prevents cities from adopting development agreements by voter initiative. As a result, the judges directed the Moreno Valley City Council to set aside adoption of its World Logistics Center agreement.
Although city officials now claim the ruling will have no impact and the development will continue to move forward as planned, the environmental groups who sued consider their legal victory a significant setback for the 40-million-square-foot project.
This is the second setback for city officials and the developer regarding this project. Less than two months ago the Riverside Superior County declared the project’s Environmental Impact Report (EIR), void. A revised EIR was submitted and will remain available for review and public comment until September 7.
The revised EIR is available online at http://www.moval.org/cdd/documents/about-projects.html.