Conservancy wins favorable ruling in developer’s lawsuit

News item

A ruling that would force the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy and the Las Virgenes Municipal Water District to pay a developer $4.2 million was overturned by the California Court of Appeal last week. The decision sends back to the Superior Court the issue of whether the conservancy and water district had improperly interfered with plans by Village Properties to buy nearly 500 acres above the Las Virgenes reservoir, near Westlake Village.

“It’s a great victory,” stated Liz Cheadle, conservancy chair and dean of students at UCLA Law School.

The Court of Appeal held that the lower court had improperly granted summary judgment in favor of the builder, leading to the multimillion-dollar award. The appeals court held that “public entities (such as the district) have an indefeasible right to acquire land for public purposes, a right that is exercised by invoking the power of eminent domain and which cannot be contracted away.”

In 1995, Superior Court Judge Madeleine I. Flier ruled in favor of Village Properties, an affiliate of the Baldwin Co. of Orange Country, ruling the conservancy and the water district had conspired to interfere with the developer’s deal to buy the land.

The appellate opinion may bolster the position of the conservancy and water district.

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The case could now be retried in Superior Court.

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The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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