Grower’s land-use suit rejected – Melville’s ruling was later overturned

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[B]Grower’s land-use suit rejected [/B] By Karen White / Senior Times Writer SANTA MARIA — A local farming company has lost its last local opportunity to sue Santa Barbara County over a controversial land-use decision. Santa Maria Superior Court Judge Rodney Melville ruled against Adam Bros. Farming after a lengthy hearing Tuesday morning. Melville dismissed, without the right to refile, the third amended complaint charging the county with violations of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution involving due process. In February, the judge had rejected an earlier suit, claiming the farming company had not completed the possible administrative remedies necessary before the case could be judged in court. Although local litigation has ended, Adam, represented by Santa Maria attorney Richard Brenneman, could file for a hearing in the appellate court. The suit has been filed first in March of 2000, charging the county and eight employees of the Planning and Development Department with denial of equal protection of the law through “unlawful denial of an appeal,” “fraudulent government process” and “conspiracy by fraudulent government process.” At issue is 110 acres of land northwest of Highway 1, just west of its junction with Solomon Road, in three separate parcels. At one time the county had considered a best use for a portion of the land to be a park. Adam Bros. Farming acquired interest in the land Nov. 26, 1997, after Santa Barbara County had determined, through biological study, the area could be declared a wetlands. In August 1998, the owners were advised by county planners the county grading ordinance required both conditional use permits and grading permits before the land could be prepared for farming. Permits were not obtained, but Adam Bros. began grading on Dec. 4, 1998, alleging the county grading ordinance allowed them to undertake the work without permits. A stop-work order followed in March 1999. This was followed by a raid at the property in early May, which stopped any use of the land. Involved in the raid were county officials, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Environmental Protection Agency. Source:

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