Courthouse site being handled correctly
As noted in your Sept. 15 editorial, Stanislaus County urgently needs a new courthouse. Because of the state’s fiscal crisis, the Modesto project has undergone numerous delays. The site selection process has been reviewed by the court and the project’s community advisory group – which has been working with the state project team for nearly three years – as well as the State Public Works Board. The process has also been repeatedly covered in your newspaper. Restarting the process now would further delay this much-needed courthouse project, add to taxpayer expense and possibly jeopardize the project’s future funding.
The preferred site, which has numerous advantages for court users, underwent an environmental analysis as required by the California Environmental Quality Act. The state found no significant environmental effects that would require expenditure of public dollars on a full environmental impact report. It is not accurate to say that the state “exempted themselves from CEQA,” as the state followed well-established CEQA guidelines. The site met the criteria for an infill exemption, so the state publicly filed a Notice of Exemption with the State Clearinghouse. The notice is easily accessible on the Office of Policy and Research’s website, the CEQAnet Database, at http://www.ceqanet.ca.gov/QueryForm.asp, using State Clearinghouse number 2013088383.
In addition, the state is completing on-site tests for any possible hazardous waste issues. However, results of these studies must remain confidential until real estate negotiations are completed. This is in keeping with the state’s Public Records Act, which exempts real estate records until transactions are completed. To get the best deal for the taxpayers and respect private property rights, particularly when private sellers are involved, some aspects of real estate negotiations must be held confidential while negotiations are in progress. The state, the Stanislaus Superior Court and the city of Modesto are working toward the best possible courthouse for Stanislaus County and Modesto residents.
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Curtis L. Child
Chief Operating Officer,
Administrative Office of the Courts