The SilverTip project in Fish Camp, dating back to 1999 and approved in 2003, has hit many setbacks along the way. The latest is a preliminary injunction by the Merced Superior Court against Mariposa County, its board of supervisors and developer Palm Springs Resort-309, LLC.
This suit was brought by the Yosemite Alpine Community Services District (YACSD) after the district lost an appeal last November over the county planning department’s approval of a grading permit for the multi-million dollar project in which YACSD said conditions related to the easements were not met.
Currently, there are two wells on the easement, which dates back to the 1970s and gives the district a 10-foot easement. YACSD told the supervisors that another well is needed to meet the needs of its members, that the state requires a 50-foot radius to drill a new well, and should one well go bad, the only solution would be to drill a new one.
YACSD contends that a new well is needed because of drought-caused diminished yields from existing wells, and because their wells could become depleted once the resort becomes operational. At the end of the day, the supervisors denied the appeal in a 5-0 vote.
District chairman Richard Ryon said the group tried to reach an agreement with Far West, the parent company of the resort developer, but those efforts proved unsuccessful. This left the group no alternative but to file suit seeking an injunction.
The court order, dated Oct. 4, basically states that no further permits or approvals would be allowed for any construction of any facilities within a 50-foot radius of existing wells or easements, and that this injunction would remain in place until final resolution of all claims.
“The court’s decision indicates that the county erred in not recognizing the rights and responsibilities of YACSD and the need of Fish Camp residents for water. It also indicates that the district is likely to prevail in obtaining a permanent injunction against the county and the resort developer,” Ryon said.
Bill Abbott, who has represented Mariposa County as outside land use counsel for several years, doesn’t view this preliminary injunction as a significant setback to the project.
“A preliminary injunction means the court is protecting the status quo until the court can conduct a trial on the merits of the litigation,” Abbott explained. “This court order is limited to a small portion of the project, and doesn’t limit the county from issuing new permits or limit the developer from proceeding with development elsewhere on the project site.”
According to Abbott, the litigation has been divided into two parts, the first part focuses on the decisions made by Mariposa County which concluded that the developer was in compliance with the conditions of approval. The county is not named in the second part, which involves the relative easement rights between the developer and the district.
The first part of the case is expected to be heard in a couple of months.
The SilverTip project is planned for 47 acres at the intersection of Highway 41 and Fish Camp Lane, about 600 feet off the highway, and includes a 137 unit hotel with 30 cabins, a restaurant, retailers, tennis courts, pool, three decorative ponds, large conference center plus four smaller centers, and employee apartments.
Extensive information on the SilverTip project can be viewed at mariposacounty.org/index.aspx?NID=1425.