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Nov 25, 2010 8:59 PM by Ariel Wesler

City sued over proposed development on farmland

Some activists are suing the city of Lompoc because they don't want farmland replaced by houses and businesses.

The Santa Barbara County Action Network filed the suit claiming the city broke the law by approving the environmental impact report on a new development. The city says the activists are jumping the gun because the project hasn't been given the go-ahead.

Ed Wineman of Lompoc has been farming land off Bailey Avenue in Lompoc for more than 50 years.

"If we want the leafy vegetables, which are very popular nowadays, we have to preserve the areas that grow them," Wineman said.

He says the 270 acres of land is precious and shouldn't be turned into homes and businesses.

"We have good water. We have good land. We've got good climate," Wineman said.

Reporter: You can't just pick up and move? It's not that easy?

No, it's not that easy," Wineman responded.

Others call it some of the most productive agricultural land in the state and say the project is unnecessary.

"We have the houses. We can meet the state's numbers. What we don't have is a lot of farmland left," said Joyce Howerton with the Santa Barbara County Action Network.

Farmers say the soil is too good to give up and they don't want to see their livelihoods destroyed, but the city says the lawsuit is unnecessary because no final decision has been made.

"The city council has not adopted the Land Use Element of the General Plan, which is what the petitioners are really interested in challenging. An EIR is an informational document that serves as the basis for making land use decisions. Certifying an EIR is not a final action on any land use decision," Lompoc City Attorney Joseph Pannone wrote in a statement to KSBY News.

"They had other options and unfortunately, they did not provide the reasoning for providing the high growth alternative," said Christina McGinnis with the Environmental Defense Center.

Meanwhile, Wineman is proud of what he's produced and wants to watch his legacy continue to grow.

"Most people would say I'm nuts. They say I should cash in and go on a cruise, but I've been here too long. I've enjoyed it too much. It's treated me well, and I'd like someone else to enjoy it," Wineman said.

Environmentalists and farmers hope the lawsuit will encourage the city council to resume talks and negotiations with the community. They fear losing this land could set a precedent for land-use battles in the rest of Santa Barbara County.

That development project would consist of nearly 2700 homes and more than 225,000 square feet of commercial space.

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