Tuleyome’s Letter Opposing a Negative Declaration at Field & Pond

The pond in Field and Pond
The pond in Field and Pond

Following the Vanguard’s article on Wednesday on the Field & Pond dispute, Bob Schneider submitted Tuleyome’s letter opposing a Negative Declaration for Field and Pond, as well as Ecologist Chad Roberts’ lengthy analysis.

July 28, 2016

Stephanie Cormier, Senior Planner

Yolo County Planning and Public Works Department

292 West Beamer Street

Woodland, CA 95695

Re:  Comments, Revised/Reissued Negative Declaration, Field and Pond Project, ZF2015-0018

Dear Ms. Cormier,

Tuleyome offers the following comments to the Planning Department regarding Revised/Reissued Negative Declaration, Field and Pond Project, ZF2015-0018 for the proposed Field and Pond Event Center Project on Road 29 in western Yolo County.  Thank you for noticing us with respect to this environmental compliance document.

With this letter Tuleyome fully incorporates comments submitted on July 28, 2016 by Chad Roberts.

Tuleyome owns property at the west end of Road 29.  At the end of Road 29, a 4×4 dirt road leads through the Scott Ranch to Tuleyome’s 640-acre Ireland Ranch located abutting Bureau of Land Management lands at Rocky Ridge.  We lease the property for grazing and large cattle trucks are used in the fall and winter to transport cows to and from summer pastures.

Tuleyome did meet on-site with the applicants and in light of the county’s “by right” policies offered some suggestions on mitigate of impacts produced by impacts from that level of activity.

In summary, we call to your attention specifically Roberts comments on environmental compliance:

“Further, if there is a public disagreement, supported by substantial evidence, about the significance of the project’s impacts, then the local agency is required to prepare an EIR.”


The most appropriate and timely response is for the county to require the preparation of a legally adequate Environmental Impact Report.”


Bob Schneider

Senior Policy Director

Excerpts from Chad Roberts’ 41 page letter to Stephanie Cormier…

The following comments address the revised and reissued Initial Study (IS) and Draft Negative Declaration (NegDec) for the proposed Field and Pond Event Center Project on Road 29 in western Yolo County.

Many of the comments hereunder incorporate or are based on comments I sent to the Planning Department in April regarding the previous draft IS/NegDec, as many previously identified environmental concerns still exist for the revised environmental document. As before, most comments are focused on aspects of the natural environment on the site or in the vicinity; additional comments address selected land use and public services issues. My 04 April 2016 comment letter addressing the previous IS/NegDec is attached; please be sure that it’s fully incorporated (with its attachments) into the county administrative record and provided for decision-maker review.

As indicated in my previous letter, I’ve been familiar with ecological conditions in the project vicinity and on the project for more than four decades, and have visited the area at irregular intervals over the years to observe changing conditions there. Generally, I’ve worked for more than 35 years as an applied ecologist and environmental planner, and I’m very familiar with both ecological science and environmental assessment processes as they relate to project environmental reviews. A brief resume (Attachment A) summarizes some relevant qualifications, particularly noting selected experiences with wetlands, riparian areas, and oak woodlands.

The revised IS/NegDec is improved with respect to its assessment of biological and conservation impacts resulting from the proposed project. The improvements are a result primarily of the inclusion of several broad-spectrum changes in the project. These are: (1) the completion of a credible biological study (by Estep Consulting, Attachment A to the revised IS/NegDec), which clearly identified a number of significant impacts from the proposed project and provided recommendations for mitigating some of the impacts; (2) the removal of the proposed development elements south of Chickahominy Slough and the area’s retention as habitat; and (3) the recognition of the General Plan requirement in Policy CO-2.22 for a protective 100-foot setback of development from aquatic features on the project site, including Chickahominy Slough and the “2-acre pond.”

Notwithstanding the substantial improvement in the NegDec, however, the assessment still fails to incorporate a sufficiently comprehensive framework that fully includes the proposal’s effects on the biological environment, and a number of significant environmental consequences are both unanalyzed and unmitigated. It remains my professional opinion that the IS/NegDec fails to meet the requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) with respect to the proposed project, failing to avoid, reduce, or offset adverse environmental consequences as required by law.

Conformance with California Environmental Quality Act Requirements

In my 04 April letter I identified a number of categories in which the county’s Initial Study/Negative Declaration document failed to address CEQA requirements. While the modified project (with 100-foot setbacks for aquatic features and an expectation of no alterations in conditions south of Chickahominy Slough) could reduce the environmental consequences of the proposed event center project, and therefore the extent of concerns about lack of CEQA compliance, the revised/reissued IS/NegDec still demonstrates that its assessments fail to meet the county’s obligations under CEQA.

As the CEQA Guidelines summarily state in subsection 15064(f)(1), “if a lead agency is presented with a fair argument that a project may have a significant effect on the environment, the lead agency shall prepare an EIR even though it may also be presented with other substantial evidence that the project will not have a significant effect (No Oil, Inc. v. City of Los Angeles (1974) 13 Cal.3d 68).” This is commonly referred to as the “fair argument” standard for concluding that an EIR is required, and it presents a very low threshold for reaching that decision: a “fair argument” that the project will cause significant impacts, supported by substantial evidence. Under these circumstances an EIR is required even if the local agency has other evidence that suggests that no significant impacts will occur. Further, if there is a public disagreement, supported by substantial evidence, about the significance of the project’s impacts, then the local agency is required to prepare an EIR.

In this comment I’ve presented substantial evidence that a “fair argument” exists that the modified and reissued Negative Declaration for the Field and Pond Event Center project has still failed to address potentially significant environmental impacts, has failed to identify and disclose adequate mitigation measures for those effects, and represents a conclusory document that attempts to rationalize approving a project with environmentally significant impacts without avoiding, reducing, or offsetting those impacts as required by law.

The county may choose to (once more) retract the proffered Negative Declaration for revision, and subsequently issue a yet further-expanded environmental document. However, it’s not likely that a further-revised NegDec will cure the ills that exist in the county’s CEQA process for this proposal. The most appropriate and timely response is for the county to require the preparation of a legally adequate Environmental Impact Report.

Thank you for considering Yolo County’s substantial environmental resources.

About The Author

Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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      1. SODA

        I’ll take an early morning stab:  sounds like what was required the applicant provide for environmental assessment of the project was done with mitigation suggestions but the authors feel a full EIR is more appropriate and should be done before proceeding because of the environmental impact of the site. Come close?

        perhaps I am confused about the state of the project but I was under the assumption that the B and B had been built and the property had been somewhat converted for weddings, all that had been approved and now there is disagreement…..from the picture of the beautiful arts and crafts living room you showed in the the initial story….?? Can someone give a status of the project? Thanks,

        1. David Greenwald

          I believe your first paragraph is correct.

          On the second, I believe the B&B is “built” (they actually don’t have the bathrooms in the upstairs for multiple rentals), but they need a conditional use permit to do more than 8 weddings a year and do it for profit.

        2. ryankelly

          So they could run the B&B and do up to 8 weddings per year with their current permit.  And this is not profitable?   They want to expand their lodging facility and do weddings/events every weekend?

          I believe that this is about not allowing agriculture land and ag areas of Yolo County to be converted into non-ag related uses.  The 500 foot buffer for spraying means that, even if they were in the middle of their own farm, the ag production suffers when these kinds of businesses set up shop.  Land prices rise and start crowding out farmers.  The area slowly changes from its ag focus into expensive wedding/event venues, expensive housing and exclusive resorts.   I think this is the concern by farmers in the area.

        1. Delia .

          The issues of opening a nice business in a rural area and there is farmland close by, 2 married gay men, different events on their property, etc. There are actually many many similarities. They were able to make their business work and also get along with their neighbors. And now  they’ve actually brought some nice jobs to their community, too.

      1. Delia .

        The issues of opening a nice business in a rural area and there is farmland close by, 2 married gay men, different events on their property, etc. There are actually many many similarities. They were able to make their business work and also get along with their neighbors. And now  they’ve actually brought some nice jobs to their community, too.

  1. Marina Kalugin

    PS>   if they didn’t do their due diligence, oops….

    shouldn’t they or their attorney or realtor have informed them of that rule?

    if they KNEW that the max was 8 weddings a year, why did they expect an exception….  really?

    Or, if they decided to build when it wasn’t allowed …similar to how most folks these days try to get what they want on property not zoned for it….well too bad for them.

    did they think they would just spend money until they got what they wanted….gimme a break…

    hope they have a large family for their own family reunions……

  2. Marina Kalugin

    I really doubt that any reasonable person would argue the case that it is the county’s responsibility to bend the rules for them for them to be profitable?  really?   nor the farmers and neighbors nearby…

    I am sorry they chose not to follow the rules and spend so much money….perhaps they (and some others) will learn a lesson from this


  3. Misanthrop

    I’m sad to see Tuyelome get used like this. I guess the real question is if adding 12 more weddings a year is a significant enough impact to warrant a full EIR.

  4. Marina Kalugin

    of course you are sad…do you even have a clue yet…not likely…this is no different than much of what developers get away with in Davis….LOVE Tuyelome…  and the Sierra Club and so on…

    they get a clue…it is all about precedence…it is about people not doing due diligence or thinking because they are of some category or status  they will get a break?  why should they…

  5. Misanthrop

    Actually I’m a member of Tuleyome. Give them money every year. Developers? By that standard anyone who makes improvements to any property is a developer. To Bob and Chad I would ask the same question as to the other objectors, why didn’t you buy the property when it was for sale instead of trying to interfere in the use of the property by the prople who did buy it?

    1. ryankelly

      Misanthrop, Is it really interference when a significant change in operation has a significant impact on a billion dollar industry and Yolo County’s rural/ag focus?  Do you support the slow and steady development of ag land in Yolo County into hotels and event centers?

      1. Misanthrop

        Yes I do, commodity production is overrated and the workers are underpaid. This use is not incompatible with existing uses and will hardly result in decreases in commodity production anyway. It is simply an increase of an already allowed use. I think there is another question that is of concern, the abuse of CEQA to deter legal activity that some find morally objectionable. It is sad that Tuleyome would be involved with objecting to such activity, currying favor with the landed gentry at the expense of these new property owners.

        I’ve known Bob and Chad for decades going back to my work with the Northcoast Environmental Center and I have much respect for both of them. Both the NEC and California Wilderness Coalition where Bob worked to help pass Rare II that limited road building through unroaded areas of public lands throughout mostly the Western U.S were important players in that effort. Also Chad’s work at Audubon was regularly published in Econews, the monthly publication of the NEC. I have given Tuleyome money every time they have sent me a request for as long as they have existed. I even donated to help buy the land they own, both cited and sited, in this story. They have been a great organization. Without them there would not be the new Snow Mountain Berryessa National Monument. Still this is too much. I doubt I will send them money the next time they request it.

  6. Marina Kalugin

    yes…and me also.. Bob and Tyleyome or whatever the spelling and also with the Sierra Club actually came to support the Ricci neighbors against Woodbridge..  that was the very late 80s and early 90s….

    truly, sorry since I have no idea who Missy is…and yet – the others and I go way back…

    my other emails on the first thread where the historic home owner first posted were removed without a trace before missy even joined in here….

    I am happy to see that Bob and others are standing to their guns.. on this one…

    and, we did try to buy Ricci …many of us tried to.. but the then CC couldn’t wait for us to get the funds together…

    most of us were not rich…yet we tried to get the funds together…….

    and, for those who still don’t have a clue,,    just try to follow and keep up…



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