Court: Adam may continue suit – Melville

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Court: Adam may continue suit By Karen White / Senior Times Writer SANTA MARIA — The Court of Appeals in Los Angeles has overturned a local court decision from 2001, allowing Adam Bros. Farming Inc. and Iceberg Holdings to continue in a suit against Santa Barbara County. The dispute, pitting the local farming company against the county Planning and Development Department, involves 95 acres of a 268-acre parcel in the Orcutt area near Solomon Road and Highway 1. The Adams purchased the property in 1997 and later attempted to begin agricultural grading on the site. The county had already declared a portion of the property an environmentally sensitive wetland before the purchase. The farming company went to court on March 29, 2000. Later, in its fourth amended complaint, it alleged that when the county was in the process of preparing and adopting a general development plan for the Orcutt area, certain county employees began a fraudulent scheme to falsely designate the land a wetlands. Adam alleges that the designation was false and was intended to provide a financial benefit to the county resulting from the existence of the wetland. The county had proposed, at one time, that the site purchased by the Adams be designated for parkland. The matter was not heard after Santa Maria Superior Court Judge Rodney Melville ruled in favor of a demurrer, which was submitted by the county to dismiss the action. The demurrer held that the Adams had not taken advantage of other remedies. On Monday the Second Appellate District, Division 6, vacated the judgment of dismissal by Melville and reserved his decision on four of the nine causes of action in the complaint. The suit should return to Melville’s court within 30 days of the decision, according to attorney Mario Juarez, an associate of attorney Richard Brenneman. Brenneman carried the case to the Court of Appeals. “It was a very favorable decision” for Adam Bros., Juarez said Friday. He called the Court of Appeals decision a vindication of the plaintiffs’ charge they had not received due process in the case. “Adam Bros. just wants its day in court before a jury of 12 regular citizens,” Juarez said. The Court of Appeals affirmed the Adams’ complaint that the land-use decisions by the county violated the farm company’s constitutional rights to use its land, and that a conspiracy between the county and a county consultant (identified as Katherine Rindlaub) interfered with Adams’ future economic advantage. The appellate court stated the complaint sufficiently sets forth substantive due process and equal protection violations. Other claims were not sufficiently alleged, so the jurists only reversed a portion of the allegations. Specifically, the Court of Appeals is allowing the complaint to move ahead on the basis that Adam Bros. was denied substantive due process based on the purportedly false designation of the property as a wetland, and was denied equal protection of the law because, in making the false wetlands designation, the county treated the company differently from all other landowners in the county. The jurors also rejected Rindlaub’s argument that the trial court failed to make an independent ruling on the merits of her special motion to strike. * Senior staff writer Karen White can be reached at (805) 739-2217 or by e-mail at Sept. 21, 2002 :nav Source:

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