County Issues Notice of Preparation for Field & Pond EIR

A back room in the main building

The Board of Supervisors has twice had to approve an event permit for the Field & Pond event center to host weddings out in a rural stretch of Yolo County. The approvals came over the strenuous objections of the neighbors, as well as organizations like the Farmland Protection Alliance, Tuleyome, and the Yolo County Farm Bureau.

In a contentious meeting in September 2016, the Board of Supervisors on a 4 to 1 vote put through an approval for the event center, which, among other things, allowed for 20 events, four of them as large as 300 people.  Shuttles would be required, the blackout dates from July 15 to September 15 would stand, the scheduling would be limited to Saturdays, they added an end time of 11 pm with music cut at 10 pm, and security would be mandatory with the Yolo County Sheriff’s Office notified of the event.

Originally, on March 8, 2016, a Mitigated Negative Declaration (MND) and Initial Study were issued.  A revised MND was recirculated in June of that year, with further minor changes in October 2016.

A lawsuit regarding the project was filed in Yolo County Superior Court on November 14, 2017.  The lawsuit, filed by the Farmland Protection Alliance, alleged that the Use Permit violated CEQA, provisions in the Williamson Act, and “that the CEQA documentation failed to address impacts associated with a range of environmental topics, including traffic, agriculture, and endangered species.”

In June, the Yolo County Superior Court agreed in part.  As the county staff report notes in the Notice of Preparation for the EIR: “The Court found that the Project may have a significant environmental impact on tricolored blackbird, valley elderberry longhorn beetle, and golden eagle. The remaining claims were denied. The Judgment and resulting Writ of Mandate requires the County to undertake further study and preparation of an Environmental Impact Report to address only the potential impacts of the Project on the tricolored blackbird, valley elderberry longhorn beetle, and golden eagle.”

In short, the EIR will consider impacts of the project on the tricolored blackbird, the valley elderberry longhorn beetle, and the golden eagle, determine the level of significance of the environmental effect, and analyze these potential effects to the detail necessary to make a determination on the level of significance.

Osha R. Meserve representing the Farmland Protection Alliance, Don Mooney representing Tuleyome, and Christian C. Scheuring representing the Yolo County Farm Bureau filed the suit challenging the October 11 actions of the Board of Supervisors.

According to the complaint, “Respondents failed to proceed in the manner required by law, and thus prejudicially abused their discretion, in violation of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

“CEQA requires the preparation of an environment impact report (EIR) where there is substantial evidence, in light of the whole record before the lead agency, that a project may have a significant effect on the environment,” they write.  “Because substantial evidence in the record supports a fair argument that the Project may cause significant adverse effects on the environment, Respondents failed to proceed in the manner required by law by adopting the MND and approving the Project.”

Supervisor Duane Chamberlain was the lone opponent of the project overall, arguing that, without the spray buffer, “you can’t farm at all, that’s for damn sure.”  He said that the smell of the spray leads people to believe they have been exposed to toxic air even when they haven’t.  “Winds change, things change, it’s ridiculous to think that you can draw a line on a map.”

He added, “I don’t want to take any land out of the Williamson Act.”  He agreed with the opponents to the project that city people on the road are a problem waiting to happen. And finally, he argued that weddings and an event center “are not agritourism.”

In a 2016 statement to the Vanguard, Dahvie James, one of the owners of Field & Pond, said, “We are grateful to the community of Winters, the citizens of Yolo County, the Sheriff and Fire Services Departments, County Staff, and the Board of Supervisors for their invested faith in Field & Pond, and the licensing of our business for a B&B and additional events.

“Field & Pond is now one of the only two licensed venues in Winters, and one of the few luxury B&B offerings in the County,” he said.  “Ultimately, we firmly believe that this lawsuit, albeit consistent with all other malicious acts levied by the project opponents, is unfounded and lacks validity.”

He stated, “While the opponents have a legal right to once again challenge the authority and decision of the Board of Supervisors, they were unsuccessful in not just one Board of Supervisors hearing, but two, in proving the merits of their case.  Ultimately, we, along with our attorneys, and the support of County Staff, the Board of Supervisors, and the head legal Counsel for Yolo County are prepared and committed to defend and uphold the existing approval, conditions and mitigations for this project.”

A public scoping meeting will be held on July 18 at 10 am at the Yolo County Community Services Department, Cache Creek Conference Room, located at 292 W. Beamer Street in Woodland.

—David M. Greenwald reporting


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David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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19 thoughts on “County Issues Notice of Preparation for Field & Pond EIR”

  1. Ron

    From article, quoting Supervisor Duane Chamberlain:

    He added, “I don’t want to take any land out of the Williamson Act.”  He agreed with the opponents to the project that city people on the road are a problem waiting to happen. And finally, he argued that weddings and an event center “are not agritourism.”

    I agree.  (Especially the quote regarding the Williamson Act.)

    From previous articles, I seem to recall that the land was subdivided (creating the parcel in question), shortly before it was sold to the new owners. If so, then less-then-desirable pursuits like this are to be expected, as a result.

    1. David Greenwald

      I don’t believe that is accurate – subdivided before being sold to the new owners.  The sole question was how many events they could hold on the site.

    2. Ron

      From previous Vanguard article, in support of my comment above:

      “You might be surprised to know that we actually came upon the opportunity to buy our ranch on a whim.  It was part of a larger landholding, approximately 1,400 acres. It had been parceled out, in order to increase the prospect of selling”

       http://www.davisvanguard.org/2016/09/field-pond-found-home-winters/

      (The timing of the subdivision does not seem to be mentioned.)

      1. David Greenwald

        Ok, it had been a few years.  Regardless, by rights, they were entitled to doing a certain amount of events.  Their request, negotiated with the neighbors, was to increase it.  That request was approved 4-1.  They were then sued on a number of grounds, and the court upheld the suit as explained above.

        1. Ron

          Your article (from the link I posted above) appeared less than 2 years ago.

          Your other comments have no relationship to my comments.  (In particular, my primary point regarding the result of subdivisions of rural land.)

        2. Ron

          Another consideration (regarding subdivisions of large tracts of rural land) is the resulting increased risk of fire, as more people and dwellings occupy fire-prone areas.  (Which is simultaneously occurring as the frequency and intensity of fires seems to be increasing, perhaps due to climate change.)

          It would be interesting to know what the probability of large fires is, in the location discussed. (Including the other tracts that were created from the 1,400-acre, original site.)

  2. Jim Hoch

    UCD defines “Agritourism” as involving “a working farm or ranch” so by their definition this is not Agritourism.  Maybe Agrivoyerism?

     

     

    Agritourism

    Agricultural tourism is a commercial enterprise at a working farm or ranch conducted for the enjoyment and education of visitors, and that generates supplemental income for the owner or operator.

     

    Agritourism can include farm stands or shops, U-pick, farm stays, tours, on-farm classes, fairs, festivals, pumpkin patches, corn mazes, Christmas tree farms, winery weddings, orchard dinners, youth camps, barn dances, hunting or fishing, guest ranches, and more.

     

    The UC Small Farm Program, working with county-based UC Cooperative Extension farm advisors, provides resources for agritourism operators and hosts California’s statewide directory and calendar of agritourism operations.

      1. Jim Hoch

        It’s important to not confuse the characterization of the facility and permissible uses.

        If I want to have a wedding venue inside a cannery then I will only schedule weddings when there no canning happening. if I have a wedding venue next to a cannery I will schedule weddings when I can get the business and complain about the noise.

  3. Jeff M

    Yet just down the road a bit we have Park Winters.  The difference appears to be the neighbors.  Are they naughty or nice?

    Before my next comment, I need to preface it with come information about me.

    1. I am a farm, ranch and ag-business supporter.  I am not in favor of anything that negatively impacts the long-term health of the agriculture and ag-related industry.   I am starting a new business that partners with local farmers and ranchers. 

    2. Yolo County is an under-marketed brand in my opinion.  The historical and current level of diverse ag-related production from this region is astounding… yet the work to develop and leverage the brand of Yolo County has been feeble and unimpressive to date.   I am working with others in the County to change that.  Yolo County may never be Napa County, but it should be at least as strong a brand as is Sonoma County… in my opinion.

    3. I run an existing business that provides financing to small business through federal programs.  The primary mission of these programs is to improve economic vitality in the communities we serve.  A primary mission boost is to improve the economic circumstances in rural areas.  This is a policy goal under the Trump administration after already starting under the Obama administration.

    My comment is that many of those in opposition to Field & Pond’s events are being dumb ding-bats.

    For one, venues like Park Winters and Field & Pond help develop the brand of Yolo County.  I hear from people all the time that they never knew how beautiful the area was.  The little city of Winters is becoming a destination city… a Gateway to the Napa Valley.

    Secondly, these venues bring much-needed jobs to the area.  I recently attended a wedding event at Taber Ranch near Esparto in the Capay Valley (thankfully not destroyed by the recent fire).  I talked to the employees working the event.  They came from all around the region and all were thankful for the work.

    Thirdly, I know that both Field & Pond and Park Winters like to use local-farmed and local-ranched produce for their menus.  They serve local wine and beer.  And I expect them to serve my local-made spirits if can ever get through the gauntlet of planning permits in our screwed up excessive California building code requirements obstacle course.  These businesses are good customers of the very people that are in opposition.

    Lastly, I have met the owners of both venues and they are the nicest people on the planet.  In terms of good neighbors, I don’t think the bar could be raised.

    There are two hotels going up in the City of Winters.  It is likely that most of the wedding parties will stay there and can be shuttled back and forth, thus reducing the traffic load.  I think the traffic concern is just a red herring for the standard NIMBY reaction we see in Davis all the time.  My hope is that those people be marginalized as there is really nothing anyone can do to change their mind.  And the others in opposition give it some deeper thought and consideration as to the benefits and become supporters instead.

    1. Don Shor

      It’s hard to imagine this project is an issue for any of the specific species listed. I suppose they could line the county road with elderberries for the longhorn beetles. Looking at Google earth, it appears that a nice new orchard has been planted directly across from the site. The concern I have, as one who lives surrounded by orchards, is that Duane is exactly right about the spraying issue. Constraints on spray operations include wind speed, temperature, etc., so when they need to spray and they have a window to do it — they’re going to spray, regardless of how many people are standing outside for wedding reception on the adjoining property. And there isn’t going to be any prior notice; that’s not how it works. The odor drifts and people are going to react to it. Most people have no idea how often orchards get sprayed. The blackout period covers most of the dust from harvest operations, but pesticides are applied to tree crops year-around.
      I don’t know if there is any legal remedy to prevent hassles that might arise from normal orchard operations. I know Yolo County has a right-to-farm ordinance, but don’t know how it might apply here.
      http://davismerchants.org/vanguard/orchard%20spraying.jpg

      1. Ken A

        The Yolo County farmers I have talked to are worried that if Davis and Woodland and Winters start expanding 10 acres at a time selling to rich people who build big homes it will push out real farmers.  I recently went to an open house at the Great Bear winery just north of town and it looks like most of F St/County Road 101A is turning in to more of a “big home with some farming” neighborhood than an actual “ag land”.  We met the owners and their daughter and they seem real nice but I’m sure they would not be happy if neighbors started to spray (with the rig Don shows in his post) when they had 50 guests over sipping wine.  It looks like the same thing is happening all around Davis with two new massive homes just getting finished just NE of the Mace curve and another huge home (joining the others south of Montgomery)…

      2. Jeff M

        I believe this is a Field & Pond issue/problem and not a problem for the orchard owner.

        The EIR species impact claim is yet another spurious move exploiting the intent of the law to serve a NIMBY and/or anti-growth mission.

        Given the wailing here, I wonder how in the hay any vineyard farmer could do their work in Napa county where wedding venues and agriculture seem to blend as one and the same.

        1. David Greenwald

          Interesting that I think Jeff is exactly right.  Think about it, they are suing and the only thing they prevailed on was impact on some species.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to see species negatively impacted, but whatever impact this project has on the species has absolutely no impact on the neighbors.  This is all punitive.  And in the end, it’s not going to stop the event center, it’s just adding to their legal costs. To me this is an abuse of CEQA just as some of the suits in Davis are and in the end, they are self-defeating because it turns people against CEQA. As the LA Times Editorial Board put it last year: “While CEQA is a vital tool that has made countless projects better since its inception, it is also too easily used to stop projects for reasons that have nothing to do with environmental protection.”

        2. Ken A

          All but five (5)  of the approximate five HUNDRED (~500) wineries in Napa can host even a single wedding a year.

          “Napa Valley wineries are strictly prohibited from hosting weddings on their grounds. The Winery Definition Ordinance (WDO) was put in place in the late ’80s to protect the agricultural land used for wineries and wanted to be very specific about what types of activities can (and more importantly can not) take place on these grounds. And apparently weddings are on the “not” list.”

          https://napavalleyregister.com/lifestyles/food-and-cooking/columnists/tim-carl/the-number-of-wine-producers-in-the-napa-valley/article_08cec130-ff68-54cd-8497-94884f0c93f6.html

          Once you let people in to an ag area in CA within a couple hours of SF and LA without restrictions the ag is doomed (when I was a kid most of the Silicon Valley was ag and at $500K/home no crop can compete with that kind of profit)…

        3. Ken A

          I’m wondering if Jeff looked to see how many of the 163 were “actually” in the Napa Valley (Gurneville, Vallejo and Petaluma three of the first five are NOT in Napa) and another of the first five is the Carneros Inn a place that looks like a big trailer park where I’m embarrassed to admit that I spent just over $1K/night to stay (in the LEAST expensive room) at when my wife’s best friend got married there last summer (the rooms and wedding at Carneros was actually cheaper than Meadowood one of the other non winery places you can actually get married in the Napa Valley)…

      3. Jeff M

        One more point.

        Blame the farmers for ripping up so much row-crop land and replacing it with pretty orchards that new brides find attractive.

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