The owners of Field + Pond have been successful both in securing approval from the county as well as the court itself. But the fight is taking a toll on Dahvie James and Philip Watt, both financially and emotionally.
In January, Judge Kathleen White denied most of a suit filed by the Farmland Protection Alliance, Tuleyome, and the Yolo County Farm Bureau, but the one cause of action she upheld, the further study and EIR (Environmental Impact Report) to address “only the potential impacts of the Project on the Tricolored Blackbird, Valley Elderberry Longhorn Beetle, and the Golden Eagle,” not only cost them in terms of costs for an EIR, but also court fees because the plaintiffs ended up with a ruling in their favor.
Judge White did, however, allow that the project approval and mitigation measures “remain in effect during this period of further environmental analysis,” which means they can continue operations.
Dahvie James explained to the Vanguard, “We are grateful that we have continued to receive successful outcomes in this process.
“Despite numerous filings by the Petitioners to attempt forced cancellation of weddings from out of town visitors and local farming families alike, we have been able to continue our operations and business services uninterrupted and with full licensing,” he continued. “We are proud that, through the diligent efforts by the local courts, and our county supervisors, to uphold justice and fairness, we have been blessed with a business that delivers high quality services that reflect the true value and sophistication that can be offered here in our beautiful county within the Sacramento Valley.”
Mr. James stated, “To date, we are celebrating our fourth wedding season, and we are privileged to not only have the opportunity to build our business, but to also build and contribute to the revenue and growth of other local businesses that have seen noteworthy halo benefits from our operations. “
Nevertheless, this process is clearly taking a toll.
“Of course we are saddened by what can only be characterized as shameless abuse of the county permitting and CEQA [California Environmental Quality Act] process, by people who are not only well outside of any area of impact from our business operations, but also known to host non-licensed events and activities themselves,” Dahvie James explained.
He continued: “The indisputable falsehood in their claims around concern with protecting ag land from development and saving endangered species are frustrating and truly embarrassing for our community. Not just because they lack integrity, but also because they truly don’t represent the viewpoints and upstanding character of the farming community that exist here.”
His dispute with the Romingers, interestingly enough, has been the anomaly, not the rule.
Mr. James said, “To date we have maintained not just friendly, but productive relationships with other neighboring farms and farmers, whether it be through collocation and partnership efforts, or through cooperation around spraying and harvesting schedules. The integrity behind our intent and actions has not wavered throughout this process.”
He said: “This is our fourth year operating across the street from a major walnut farming operation with not even one incident of disruption of their operations or ours. We agreed to a self-imposed blackout period, July 15 through September 15, to further mitigate any possibility of conflict with the alleged harvest schedules of the Petitioners. We use shuttles as a permanent means for mitigating, and in many cases eliminating traffic in the road that we pay unsubsidized taxes to have equal access to.”
He continued: “And any person with an element of curiosity about our views on protecting nature need only look as far as our business tag line, which is ‘Discover your true nature.’ We are a self-designated wildlife preserve. One of the very few areas where the natural habitat has been preserved from intensive farming, and also where there is no permitted hunting. To date, not even one new structure has been built to merit any accusations of developing prime farm land.”
But the toll is mounting.
“I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t mention that efforts by Petitioners have taken a bit of a toll on my family. Times have been tough and much of the stress that they have placed on our personal lives, often when there are not even events taking place, has laid unnecessary and unkind burden on the health and mental moral of my family and our children.”
Mr. James explained: “We have endured constant court filings for unfounded complaints, resulting in extraordinary legal bills, despite all complaints being dismissed. We have also weathered through constant stalking of our property, photographing of our business and family, and even the spreading of false information directly to our clients.
“Nevertheless, in this journey I stand still thankful, still blessed, still grateful, because despite what has been an exorbitant financial and emotional cost to pay only to gain fair legal treatment, fair access to opportunity, fair right to make a life and home for my family here in Yolo, we have still been successful. My prayer is that our children will look back on this time and be inspired by our endeavors and persistence in standing up for what has become a crusade for fairness, justice and equality. “
He concluded: “We are so grateful to the courts and the specific county Board of Supervisors who chose to step outside of the politics, and simply uphold the laws that are truly intended to establish a basis of fairness that everyone, no matter what their last name is, or what political posts their ancestors had served, should have access to.
“As the county staff report already indicates, we are in great standing from an environmental impact standpoint, and we look forward to finally completing this process and getting back to enjoying private and peace-filled lives.”
As the Vanguard reported, a Notice of Preparation has been filed, and they will now go through the EIR process. The question now is whether the county will continue to back them and whether these efforts will be enough to satisfy those who have seemingly opposed them every step of the way.
—David M. Greenwald reporting