City of Fresno to drop Friant Ranch lawsuit

The Fresno BeeMarch 4, 2014 

The city of Fresno is preparing to seek the dismissal of a lawsuit that the city filed against Fresno County after supervisors approved the 2,270-home Friant Ranch development in 2011.

Fresno City Council members voted last Thursday in closed session to get out of the lawsuit, City Council President Steve Brandau confirmed this week.

"The council felt that it's gone on long enough, it cost enough money and let's get out of it," he said.

The city had appealed a December 2012 court ruling that allows Friant Ranch to move forward once minor changes are made to the plan.

Last June, a Fresno County Superior Court judge ruled that the city should not be reimbursed for $700,000 in legal fees for its battle over the county development, which is in an unincorporated area 10 miles north of Fresno.

The city claimed the project would bring traffic, bad air and dirty water to the city's northern edge. Fresno won only minor changes to the project proposal.

County counsel Kevin Briggs said Tuesday he has not seen any documentation from the city on dismissing the Friant lawsuit.

Friant Ranch, proposed by the Bigelow-Silkwood family, would be a community of about 5,000 residents next to the tiny town of Friant across from Lost Lake Park.

The development would bring homes, shops and businesses to the rural area and cater to the 55-and-older set, similar to popular retirement communities in Arizona and Southern California.

Last week, an agreement was reached between the San Joaquin River Parkway and Conservation Trust and Friant Ranch developers that ended the trust's legal challenge.

Under the agreement with the trust, Friant Ranch will charge a one-time, $500 fee on each home to provide a park fund. That money will be used to restore and maintain recreation projects along the San Joaquin River Parkway.

The two lawsuit dismissals still don't clear the way for Friant Ranch to be built. A third lawsuit by the Sierra Club has been appealed and remains unresolved.

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6166, mbenjamin@fresnobee.com or @beebenjamin on Twitter.

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