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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