December 27, 2011
With only a couple of weeks to go before Monterey County Superior Court Judge Lydia Villarreal rules on the substance of Highway 68 Coalition's lawsuit opposing a proposed road from the Monterey Peninsula Regional Airport to Highway 68 as part of a runway safety project, the airport got the go-ahead to start cutting down trees.
Concerned that construction prior to a court decision could render the entire case moot—tearing up decades-old oaks could easily cause irreparable harm, that the plaintiffs hope the judge will block—Highway 68 Coalition moved for an injunction to stop the airport from proceeding. But as the court's busy calendar pushed the case back to Jan. 12, the airport board was itching to break ground, arguing construction delays could cost them $1.5 million.
So the airport sought a modification to their restraining order that would allow them to begin with early-phase construction. After attorneys for the airport and Highway 68 Coalition proposed a compromise as to those exact parameters, Villarreal ruled Dec. 21 to loosen the restraining order and allow Granite Construction to begin grading (and clearing trees) on a small swath of the airport.
“In the scheme of things, it’s a very small number of trees compared to the total that has to come down for full project completion,” says attorney Derek Cole, who is representing the airport.