Board of Supervisors Allow Field & Pond Appeal to Go Through on a 4-1 Vote

Dahvie James with Phil Watt (right) gets animated during his presentation to the board
Dahvie James with Phil Watt (right) gets animated during his presentation to the board

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.

Board Chair Jim Provenza with Supervisor Don Saylor
Board Chair Jim Provenza with Supervisor Don Saylor

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.”

Bruce Rominger presents some of the opposition's viewpoints
Bruce Rominger presents some of the opposition’s viewpoints

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.

The Board listens to staff
The Board listens to staff

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

About The Author

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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  1. SODA

    “The vote was 4-1 with Duane Chamberlain dissenting, but the overwhelming sentiment from the Board seemed to be looking for a compromise between what they saw as the valid concerns of the neighbors but their unwillingness to find a place of compromise.”

    Confused by your last sentence….Board voted to allow with stipulations BECAUSE neighbors were unwilling to compromise? Doesn’t make sense to me. Thx.
    And by allowing the appeal to go through, the final decision is as you describe, 20 events with the stipulations?

    1. David Greenwald

      Yes 20 events with stipulations.

      On the other, my sense from the board is that F&P went out their way to compromise while the neighbors stated that compromise was not possible, given the choices, the BOS sided with some events with stipulations they thought would reduce the neighbors concerns.

      1. Miwok

        Since these people built up and can’t live within the rules as they are, who thinks they will live by these?

        When do they start running their B&B customers to the casino and golf course?

      1. Biddlin

        You must be mistaken. I have said no such thing.

        Field and Pond have legitimate security concerns,

        Dahvie James told the Vanguard, “Since we have started this process in applying for our Use Permit, we have endured constant harassment characterized as ‘drive-bys’ of our home throughout all hours of the night, trespassing, public slander, and even direct sabotage of our business operations; these people have run off contractors who were working with us, they’ve even talked with our clients.

        which may be mitigated by appropriate measures, whoever may be causing the trouble.

        Interesting that you named names, though.

  2. Tia Will

    This seems to me that this would have been an excellent opportunity for a collaborative approach. I wonder what the outcome would have been had the owners of the B&B gone to the neighbors first, maybe by inviting them to a barbecue, laying out what their full ambitions were, what amount of events would be needed to keep them afloat honestly and solicited concerns and input from the neighbors rather than planning in private and then hoping that the would get their exceptions. I don’t know if some similar process was attempted unsuccessfully, but it seems like it might be worth a try rather than the use of a clearly oppositional approach.

    1. Biddlin

      Collaboration requires goodwill on the parts of all parties. Here, clearly one side has no goodwill to offer. Sometimes people are entrenched, for whatever reasons and cannot be moved to a middle-ground. Some would say those in Davis who never fail to find fault with a development proposal fit into that category.

      1. Frankly

        Tia seems to forget this in her fanciful view of people and situations.  When there are irreconcilable differences there can be no compromise.   In that case one party will prevail and the other will lose.   When one or both parties have dug in their heels and focused on their own beneficial pursuit over the greater good, then we need decisions to be made by the elected officials tasked with protecting the greater good.

        The decision has been made.

        Too bad we have Measure R in Davis since this prevents decisions for the greater good.



        1. Frankly


          I don’t support a parking structure development proposal at Lincoln40 due to the material opportunity cost harm it causes the city, plus the material traffic congestion it would cause at the city entrances and exits.

          [moderator] Is this where you meant to post this?

    2. SODA

      Agree Tia. Ideally it could have been collaborative and now it will take a long time if ever to mend fences between the two.

      What has confused me from the beginning is the apparent lack of clear process or understanding of process as this unfolded. Not to nit pick but to learn for the future. I can’t believe they bought the land and built the house without commitment from the powers to be that they could hold events. Was it 8 approved then they wanted to increase to 20 or were they led to believe 20 would be ok from the start? Were there meetings with neighbors before the B and B was built. Is there county planning process as we have in Davis to notify neighbors of pending ‘development’?

      1. Biddlin

        I can’t believe they bought the land and built the house without commitment from the powers to be that they could hold events.”

        That’s because they had commitment, but I’m sure you knew that.

        “The process began in January of 2014, Mr. James tells the Vanguard, when the property was allowed eight annual events and the county was welcoming of agritourism.  Now, more than two years later, what Mr. James believes should have cost $2700 in administrative fees has resulted in more than $60,000 in costs for the planning staff to process the application, with a rejection at the County Planning Commission which now is leading the project to get decided by the County Board of Supervisors.

        “We have tried to go through the county’s legal process for getting a use permit to conduct these activities, which ensures that we not only have met all county legal codes, but also that the county gets the benefit of business tax dollars over the longer term,” he said.
        “Before we purchased the property, we met with County Planning as part of our due diligence, to determine whether we could operate our intended business at that location,”

        County staff advised them that: “1) our property was just rezoned to ‘Ag Extensive’ because it was not prime farm land, and it would lend itself to a more ag-commercial use, 2) this rezoning would give the property a basis of entitlement for 8 events, Bed & Breakfast and Farm-Stay operations, 3) a minor Use permit would afford it (Unlimited) ‘Events’, as well as a larger Bed & Breakfast room capacity, and 4) our project proposal, which was very similar to Park Winters, would likely be a great fit for the area, based on the County’s General Plan which ‘encourages agritourism.’”

        Maybe you should read before you type, or maybe there is a deeper issue, here.

        1. SODA

          No, Bddlin, no deeper issue, really. Where did you get the bolded info; I did not see that in the article etc and have been out of the country so have not seen coverage in the DE etc.  My confusion has always been with the process and the timeline. From what you stated, they knew 8 events would be fine (but still don’t know if neighbors were informed prior to that approval as Davis city notification exists, but still unclear what prompted the increase to them trying for 20, e.g., did the county give them the idea that your 3 above would happen easily?  And how many events does Park Winters host?

          No hidden agenda on my part.

    1. Chamber Fan

      What evidence do you have that they didn’t stay in the limit of 8?  Wouldn’t the Romingers have an incentive to count the number of events and report to the county if they violate their terms?

      1. ryankelly

        They submitted a report that said that they held around 15 events, but some were “non-profit” so they didn’t count, so by their own admission they held more than the restricted 8 events.

        1. ryankelly

          They counted as “non-profit” anything that they charged under $150 per hour (the threshold that they set as no longer profitable) to rent the facility.   I think catering was an extra cost and not included in the calculation.  So they could have a wedding and only charge $125 per hour for rent on the facility, have 300 people there, and still call it a “non-profit” event.

    1. Alan Miller


      Care to get out your big paintbrush and paint a big “R” on their front gate as well?

      Sometimes a land-use dispute is just a land-use dispute.

      Has anyone seen my cigars?

      1. Tia Will

        Before we purchased the property, we met with County Planning as part of our due diligence, to determine whether we could operate our intended business at that location,””

        This clearly indicates that they met with County Planning. David, or anyone, do you have knowledge that they met with the neighbors in advance ? These are two very different questions. If you do know of such a meeting, do you know that they made it clear just how many events they were hoping to host ? My apologies if you have covered this specifically previously.

  3. Alan Miller

    I keep hearing there is only one way out of Field & Pond.  Yet Google shows the road continues and eventually hooks up with Roads 25 and 26.  Possibly there is a gate, does anything know?  Dirt, yes, but in an emergency people could be evacuated, and I assume they could get a key to the gate, if any.

  4. Miwok

    Amazing the County has to equate a big Party Pad, compare it with Family Farms, these guys came from Oakland to build an Event Center, not farm the land. That is the intended result of AG Tourism? Will the Cannery start a similar tack?

    Since this is intended to have as many people as possible at a time, they will violate the 150 limit and the 300 limit as many times as possible. Since they have a residence and B&B, the party will go long into the night.

    Where are All these people parking to “shuttle in”?

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