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Critics of PS downtown project file lawsuits

By Greg Lee, KESQ News Channel 3 Reporter & Sports Anchor, glee@kesq.com
Published On: Feb 21 2013 08:19:15 PM CST
Updated On: Feb 21 2013 10:29:18 PM CST
PALM SPRINGS, Calif. -

Opponents of the downtown Palm Springs revitalization project took the next step-- to court.  Two groups filed lawsuits against the city and Wessman Development, the latest in a series of delays for the multi-million dollar project. The legal actions come within three weeks of each other.  One of the groups, "Advocates for Better Community Development" released this statement summarizing its lawsuit:

"The city has been hastily, improperly and illegally putting the project together.  The city continues to ignore its own carefully drafted, specific plan.  The city did not consider the environmental impact of the changes that were made as required by the state environmental quality act."

Palm Springs city attorney Douglas Holland responded to the lawsuit's long list of claims regarding the straying from the original Environmental Impact Report.
"The project that was ultimately approved is less dense and less intense than the project that was envisioned when the specific plan was adopted," said Holland.  "That was the subject of a full environmental impact report."

While both sides get their lawyers involved, the demolition of the old Desert Fashion Plaza continues.  Even though work has not been interrupted, Mayor Pougnet still takes exception to the legal action.  "It's frustrating for me, because I know several of these people," said Pougnet.  "And they've been against not just this project, but they've been against numerous projects in the city of Palm Springs over the past several years."

All this while the Riverside County Registrar's Office continues to verify signatures on a petition turned in last month about the hotel part of the project.  It calls for a public vote. If it does, it could cost the city $70,000 for a special election.