MERCED -- The courts have rejected a second attempt by two local environmental groups to halt plans for a massive new community just south of UC Merced.
The Merced County Board of Supervisors approved plans for the University Community in 2004. Though it has yet to break ground, the 2,100-acre development is planned to absorb the 30,000 people the University of California at Merced is expected to draw by 2035.
The San Joaquin Raptor Rescue Center and Protect Our Water sued the county over that approval. They claimed the board violated the California Environmental Quality Act by failing to fully evaluate the environ- mental impacts of its decision.
Merced County Superior Court Judge Ronald Hansen ruled in the county's favor in September 2006. In his decision, Hansen said the lawsuit seemed "more to cause delay, rather than produce a constructive CEQA objective."
The environmental groups appealed.
On Wednesday, California's 5th District Court of Appeal upheld Hansen's decision.
Patti Istas, a UC Merced spokeswoman, said the school is looking forward to moving ahead with its development plans.
Marsha Birch, an attorney representing the environmental groups, called the ruling disappointing. "I don't think the court really addressed our main arguments in much detail at all," Birch said.
Specifically, she said the court failed to answer the contentions that the plan didn't do enough to protect farmland and that the county didn't look at alternatives that would have meant less impact to the environment.