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Judge could review county's building ban

Merced County is still working to settle a lawsuit filed last year by a local company upset with a county ban on residential development near the Highway 59 landfill.

If no resolution is reached by May 7, the matter could go to a judge.

Bull Field, LLC, which owns property near the landfill, filed the lawsuit last August. The company and the county have been working since January to reach a settlement agreement.

So far, no agreement has been finalized, the county’s lead attorney, James Fincher, said. “We’re still working on it,” he said. “That’s all we can really say.”

The lawsuit stems from a recent expansion at the landfill, which serves as the county’s main solid-waste dumping ground.

Officials proposed the expansion more than a decade ago. After environmental studies on the proposal, the county agreed to create a half-mile buffer zone around the expansion site.

But instead of buying land for the buffer zone or paying landowners for development rights, the county passed a resolution in May 2007 banning residential development in the half-mile surrounding the dump.

Bull Field, a sizable property owner near the landfill, argues that it’s illegal for the county to restrict the use of private land without compensating landowners. The company runs a 1,600-acre almond orchard near the landfill. It owns about 60 acres that are affected by the county’s resolution and leases several hundred acres more.