Portal Preserve Passes Lawsuits, Faces Economy

The deadline to appeal the project has passed. Now plans to sell lots at the controversial subdivision known as the Whitney Portal Preserve move ahead, just in time to meet the recession and the slump in housing prices.

In July of 2005, the Inyo County Board of Supervisors signed off on the project, which would allow developer Jim Walters to sell the 27 lots. Soon after, the SRVA appealed that decision, taking the position that the developer and the county didnt look seriously into land trades with government agencies to build closer to existing communities. The court agreed and ordered a revised EIR. The revised EIR, which did consider land trades, was approved by the Planning Commission and the Inyo Supervisors.

In May, close to four years after the lawsuits began, the Inyo Supervisors once again approved the 27 lot project off of Whitney Portal Road. The 30-day time limit to appeal that decision has come and gone and Walters now plans to sell lots, but difficulty obtaining construction loans could spell more delay.

On the project website, portalpreserve.com, a spokesperson writes, Due to the recession, we think it unwise to now attempt to bring Phase 1 (the first 9 of an eventual 27 lots) to completion. Instead the developer hopes to move ahead with the sale of four lots that dont require an expensive utility job or a newly paved street.

If the four lots cant be ready for development by fall, the plan is to wait until spring of 2010, when, the housing market should have begun to recover, and loans should be much more readily available.

There is one outstanding remainder of the lawsuits. The SRVA is seeking $500,000 in legal fees after winning the first round of lawsuits regarding the land trade in the EIR, but the plan is to start selling lots.

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