After two hours of public comment that seemed relatively evenly divided between those who supported the Field & Pond special events center and those who strongly opposed it, the Board of Supervisors clearly looked for the “win-win” in which a compromise could grant Dahvie James and Phil Watt their event center while still addressing concerns from the neighbors.
However, for most of the lengthy afternoon session, the neighbors continued to insist that the only win for them was denial of the applicants’ appeal, while Mr. James continued to try to find common ground and offer compromise.
For example, the applicants offered a dark period from July 15 to September 15 to allow for tomato harvests to be unencumbered. They offered to save their rights to the spray buffer. And they offered to make the shuttle mandatory, for transporting people into the center rather than allow attendees to drive their cars onto the rural road.
Supervisor Matt Rexroad eventually put forth the motion with the assistance of County Counsel Phil Pogledich 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.
Supervisor Provenza would second the motion.
During his remarks, Supervisor Don Saylor indicated that he had convened the parties yesterday in an effort to see if there was a compromise that could be reached. He expressed disappointment that they weren’t able to make more progress, but he did hold out the hope that the parties might be able to continue their dialogue and find a more amiable compromise.
This prompted attorney Osha Meserve, representing the Farmland Protection Alliance, a coalition of farmers and concerned residents who are working to ensure the long term viability of agriculture – which included the neighbors in this matter, to ask to confer with her clients to see if they had a compromise that could be reached.
Earlier in the meeting she argued against the appeal and continue to maintain her belief that the “by right” eight events supposedly allowed under the Yolo County Code was not supported by that code. After meeting with her clients, she communicated that they would be willing to accept eight events.
Kristin Castañas, representing Field and Pond, indicated that eight would not be acceptable as “that’s the number of events that they are allowed to do today – we wouldn’t need this use permit, actually.”
Supervisor Duane Chamberlain was the lone opponent of the project altogether, 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 he finally argued that weddings and an event center “are not agritourism.”
Supervisor Matt Rexroad noted that, looking at this as a bed and breakfast site, “Even if that is every night, I don’t think eight trips on a road is all that many, so when I look at that I would think that that would be the type of thing that we would encourage – certainly that is what I took from our general plan discussion many years ago in terms of the types of things we were looking for.” He said that “we wanted people to come out and do that.”
“The only real question we have … is how these events fit in,” he said. “At what point do they become a nuisance – I think that’s really the question we have before us today.” He said, in terms of the B&B, even if they want to have it 365 days a year, “it’s hard for me to understand how that truly has a negative impact.”
Supervisor Oscar Villegas said that the “county owns some of this mess,” as they wanted to have the flexibility to see this type of business without seeing it too narrowly defined. He noted that, after all he had heard, “I don’t think we are that far away to find a way to make it a win-win, co-existing, compromise.”
He said, “Really, it’s down to very few questions. I would love to figure out a way to get to that point now. I don’t think it’s a perfect situation.”
He added that he could understand the concerns of the neighbors, but also that of the applicants, who he felt were led to believe they were playing one game only to have the goalposts moved.
He saw the sweet spot as being somewhere between 12 and 20 events with mandatory shuttles.
Supervisor Saylor noted that the situation has been “complicated because the applicant has operated an event center in absence of a permit.” He said, “I thought that the concerns that were identified during the discussions do have merit.”
He is concerned that this is effectively an 11-acre site, given the limitation. He was concerned about the one way in and one way out and the safety concerns. He said, “I do think there’s a conflict with agriculture, whether we consider it significant or substantial.”
However, he added, “if we simply deny the permit and say go forward and do what you have been doing, without any conditions, then we’re perpetuating the Wild West right now.”
He said he was still thinking about this. He stated, “I’m not excited about a full scale event center on this road. It’s a small place and a small piece of land.”
In the end, the Board decided that allowing 20 events, with additional considerations and limitations, outweighed the additional impact of allowing 20 instead of eight events. The vote was 4-1 with Duane Chamberlain dissenting, but the overwhelming sentiment from the Board seemed to be looking for a compromise between the concerns of the applicants and what they saw as the valid concerns of the neighbors – but their unwillingness to find a place of compromise.
—David M. Greenwald reporting