Last week, the Superior Court of the State of California for the County of Yolo denied the motion recently filed by petitioners to stay the entirety of Field & Pond’s legally licensed and fully permitted business operations.
“We are one of the only two legally licensed venues in Winters, and the Court’s decision allows us to continue operations as planned and expected. From the outset, we viewed the petition to stay all operations, including our ability to run a modest B&B, as well as our right to book future events, as an overbearing effort by the Petitioners to obstruct small business growth and agritourism in Yolo County,” one of the owners, Dahvie James, said in a statement to the Vanguard.
He added,” Activities such as vacation renting, as well as event operations, are presently being freely conducted around the County, often without restriction, while our business is already subject to extensive qualifications and conditions regarding structures, permitting and amenities, each of which has been reviewed, approved and legally licensed by the county.
“We are, of course, excited and thankful for the Court’s decision. The process has reaffirmed our most basic expectation of justice and fairness in economic opportunity here in this county.”
The Board of Supervisors last fall 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.
Those organizations have now filed a suit against Yolo County, the Board of Supervisors and Field & Pond, attempting to block operation of their event center and bed and breakfast. Osha R. Meserve, representing the Farmland Protection Alliance, Don Mooney representing Tuleyome, and Christian C. Scheuring representing the Yolo County Farm Bureau have filed the suit challenging the October 11 actions of the Board of Supervisors. (To read the suit).
Those actions adopted a mitigated negative declaration (MND) for the proposed operation of the event center and bed and breakfast, Field & Pond.
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.”
In their latest action, the petitioners attempted to gain a stay based “on the premise that Field & Pond’s operations do not provide a public benefit to Yolo County.”
However, in a statement, Mr. James said, “Thankfully, on this point they lost. Had the Petitioners successfully asserted that a small business such as ours serves little or no public benefit to other local individuals and businesses, and to the County at large, a dangerous and unfair precedent would have been established that could jeopardize future small businesses also seeking to call Yolo County home.”
He added, “It would also have cast a shadow over the happiness and well-being of countless Field & Pond clients, business affiliates, and supporters who reside locally here in this community.”
In a contentious meeting in September, 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.
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.”
But that wasn’t the end of things. A technical error with the CEQA document – the very MND in question – put the issue back before the board on October 11, where the item was reapproved by the board.
According to an email from Taro Echiburu, Director of the Department of Community services, “The CEQA document in question was an earlier draft version of the Mitigated Negative Declaration (‘MND’), not the final version which was circulated to the public. While the Conditions of Approval and the Mitigation Monitoring Plan approved by the Board were based on the final version of the MND, the MND itself had some differences.”
Mr. Echiburu writes, “The differences between the final MND and the 9/13 hearing version affect only a small amount of text, but the resulting inconsistencies support a rehearing. County Staff want to ensure that the Board’s decision is based on the same materials as those vetted by the public.”
Mr. James told the Vanguard, “We want to thank other small businesses, and supporters, for stepping forward to declare the value that our operations represent to them, and theirs to ours; we are so humbled by their demonstrated courageousness, and we are grateful for their support. It truly does take a village, and we are so fortunate to be a part of this one.”
—David M. Greenwald reporting