Followed by the General RBDA Meeting
Wednesday, May 8, 2002, 7:30 p.m.
Stepping Over the Water Line
Water may flow downhill, but water issues seem to float uphill from the City of Santa Cruz to Bonny Doon.
Once again there are potential conflicts between Dooners and the flatlanders who hold the rights to the flow of the streams that surge down Ben Lomond Mountain to the sea.
For one, the City Water Dept. is seeking ways to rehabilitate the Bonny Doon diversion dams and dilapidated pipelines that supply raw water to the city’s treatment facilities. In February the department signed a contract with Carollo Engineers to do a preliminary engineering study and suggest alternatives to the present pipeline routes. That has a lot of property owners on Smith Grade and neighboring areas alarmed. Carollo’s proposal said, "...attention to permitting and easements/rights-of-way is a clear priority. Coordination with the public is also of great importance. The city cannot afford for the project to be stalled or ‘killed’ due to poor communication with involved landowners, or other interested public parties, particularly in instances related to property access for potential new easements."
Yet, as the project rolled out, the first thing Carollo’s surveyors did was trespass repeatedly on Smith Grade and Back Ranch Road properties in order to place markers for an aerial survey. Outraged landowners, wary of the city’s record of condemnation and eminent domain actions, raised a howl at the Water Dept. In response, Water Dept. Deputy Director Linette Abbott sent a fence-mending letter to property owners assuring them that permissions would be obtained in the future.
On the other side of the coin, the City and Bonny Doon neighbors are worried about the impact of the proposed RMC Pacific Materials quarry expansion on the city’s Liddell Springs water intake facility and private water sources (see "Supervisors Stonewall" below).
To quench your thirst for more knowledge about these issues, plus future water resource development plans that could affect an even greater area of Bonny Doon, City Water Dept. Executive Director Bill Kocher will be our featured speaker at the May 8 RBDA meeting. We hope to see you there.
Help Get the RBDA off the Dime!
You may all remember the turmoil in the RBDA in early 2000, when articles, letters and editorials appeared almost every day debating about how and by whom the RBDA was run, and whom it really represented. Out of this ferment and the March 2000 election came a call and a resolve to reshape and better define the organization by writing a new set of governing bylaws. Our leaders had the courage to appoint a Bylaws Committee which was quite heterogeneous in makeup, with individuals who had been debating with one another. It might have been a formula for gridlock, but the committee came together with great harmony to forge a set of new bylaws, intended by them to make the RBDA stronger yet more responsive and in touch with the community. The new bylaws would also permit absentee balloting, a device designed to break the quorum deadlocks in which the meetings often found themselves. But there we have Catch-22. To amend the bylaws we must follow the old bylaws, which still require a 20% quorum at an Annual or Special Meeting. In January and March we needed about 105 members present for a quorum and didn’t get one. These days we need a turnout of at least 50 members. The Board has called a Special Meeting for the 8th of May at 7:30 p.m., for the purpose of confirming the election of officers and for voting on the new bylaws, which have been reported upon at previous meetings. A little e-mail poll showed only about 30 members who would definitely commit to coming to this meeting (which will be followed by a normal General Meeting).
Let’s end this gridlock in May! Help your RBDA get closure on this issue and become the organization that most of us really want. Come to the May meeting and cast your vote as you see fit-but definitely come! If you really planned to come and just didn’t have time to reply to the e-mail poll, reply now to help us get over the top on this issue. If you plan to come and don’t have e-mail, just leave a message at 429-5755 telling us that you’re coming.
You folks really turned out in March 2000. To imitate a famous lawyer:
If you come
(Contributed, with needed apologies, by Don Coyne)
BLM In Your Backyard
Back in 1996, the Coast Dairies & Land property was a land swap gleam in Brian Sweeney’s eye. In a press release, Sweeney’s company said "Our original efforts with respect to the Coast Dairies property were focused on obtaining a land exchange with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), with our company receiving land in the city of North Las Vegas in exchange for BLM receiving the Coast Dairies property."
BLM was the intended recipient of the entire property, but even Sweeney couldn’t get the Act of Congress necessary to enable the swap. Using the threat of subdivision and development, Sweeney sold his option, pocketed a nice profit on little investment, picked up a couple of other North Coast properties, then took his profits and his local attorney and headed south to apply the same gambit in Big Sur and Malibu.
Now that the property is in the hands of the Trust for Public Land, the BLM may only be granted a smaller portion of the property, but the questions about how it will be managed still loom large. TPL and their consultants have produced a long and sophisticated planning outline, and given the public opportunities to comment.
On April 3, TPL responded to citizens’ concerns with a 47-page document that spelled out management goals in language that precludes some land uses that were opposed by many, such as commercial logging, mining and Off Highway Vehicle use (OHVs). The question is whether these assurances ("Goals" in the language of the document) will be adopted by the BLM.
TPL is not in the land ownership business and originally solicited over 30 agencies and institutions to be long-term stewards of the property. Only State Parks and the BLM offered the resources to take on such a huge property that is no longer wilderness, and embraces a wide range of uses and management challenges. That means that the BLM is the only entity willing to manage the inland portions of the property, so if the conditions attached to the property’s transfer are not acceptable to them, TPL would have little choice but to remove land use restrictions BLM found unacceptable.
BLM’s management policies raise many concerns for conservationists who wish to see the property managed in a way that implements the original vision statement that accompanied the transfer of the property to TPL. BLM is charged by Congress with a "multiple use" approach to managing their holdings. Traditional uses such as mining, grazing, logging and oil and gas production were being examined and modified to reflect environmental concerns and increased recreational demands.
But in the years since Sweeney had his option, the reins of federal government have changed hands. Now we have the Bush administration in place and no one can say that the environment and conservation are their priority. Environmental protections have been abandoned or defunded and wilderness protections weakened.
New environmental problems have arisen due to the popularity of off-highway vehicles. This widespread use of BLM land has led to BLM involvement in lawsuits over wilderness designations, road establishment and OHV access. And to fuel these users, the Bush administration’s energy policy seeks to open many new areas to oil and gas exploration, such as the proposal to open nearly 1-million acres in the Los Padres National Forest to exploration.
Other concerns include BLM land disposal or exchange policies that enabled the creation of a massive landfill project to accept urban waste at an abandoned open-pit mine adjacent to Joshua Tree National Monument. In the BLM’s Hollister Area Resource Management Plan that governs this part of the state, some areas have been closed to mining and commercial timber harvest or protected for their scenic value. We hope these designations will be appropriately applied to the Coast Dairies property.
When asked about the BLM, Darcey Rosenblatt, TPL’S Project Manager for
Coast Dairies and Land, was reassuring: "I would say that our experience
with BLM to this point has been very positive and the Hollister region
seems to be very willing to work with us to limit how this property is
used. So far they also seem to be supported by their Sacramento counterparts."
Support Our Sponsors
Stable Project EIR Raises Questions
After reading the draft of the Environmental Impact Report for Vigne Farms, a commercial stable on Bonny Doon Road opposite Smith Grade, the RBDA Executive Board had a number of questions.
In a letter in late March to Paia Levine, the county’s Environmental Coordinator for the project, we expressed our concerns regarding manure and urine disposal, traffic, and monitoring to ensure that the county’s conditions will continue to be met.
Vigne Farms was built without permits in 2000. There are facilities for 50 horses, plus a large covered riding ring. After the county redtagged it, the court allowed it to stay open but with a limit of 25 horses until it got all its permits.
AT 50 animals, this would be one of the largest horse boarding operations in the county. 50 horses produce a considerable amount of waste, and we foresee problems of disposing of it safely. Vigne’s owners, Amie Van Dine and Jim Beauregard, plan to bring it to local "farms, gardens and vineyards for composting," which could just move the problem elsewhere, especially during the rainy season. We recommend it be brought to the county landfill during that period.
We also worry about the hundreds of gallons of urine that will flow into the soil daily, not far from the west branch of Liddell Creek. While the traffic attracted by the stables alone doesn’t appear significant, its close proximity to the Bonny Doon Vineyards tasting room and the proposed Redwood Meadows Ranch Winery tasting room could bring a considerable amount of traffic to the area on weekends.
We propose that if the county permits the facility, that it be held
to 25 horses on a trial basis until the environmental and traffic impacts
can be more accurately determined before the full 50-horse capacity is
RMC Gassing Up Its Chainsaws
RMC’s proposed timber harvest on a tributary to San Vicente Creek has aroused the ire of Dooners and Davenport residents. Both the RBDA board and Davenport’s Citizens for Responsible North Coast Planning sent letters to the California Department of Forestry (CDF) asking to be notified about the public hearing reviewing the Timber Harvest Plan (THP). The hearing was scheduled but the only notice provided was a one-inch ad in the Sentinel the day before.
The Forest Practice Rules require that a public water purveyor be notified of a timber harvest in its watershed, but the county Dept. of Public Works (DPW), which operates Davenport’s water supply, was not notified of the Review Team meeting (the Review Team includes RMC representatives, its forester and government agencies) and so Citizens for Responsible Forest Management and the Sierra Club wrote to CDF to request a new hearing that included the DPW. With the assistance of Assemblyman Fred Keeley’s office, a new Review Team meeting occurred April 19.
At issue was the possibility that logging activity in a tributary of San Vicente Creek would cause increased turbidity that would make the water unusable when it is diverted for treatment. Staff members from the county Planning Dept., Dept. of Public Works, and the Regional Water Quality Control Board attended to advocate for water quality monitoring. RMC was reluctant and seems more inclined to simply use water from their Mill Creek diversion, avoid monitoring requirements, and ignore possible impacts on the fishery. San Vicente Creek is one of a few streams that still supports a Coho salmon and steelhead run despite the migration barrier RMC left at the abandoned quarry upstream.
Though not actually a public meeting, CDF granted permission for members of the public to comment and question the Review Team. The THP included provisions to allow extended hours for chainsaw work on weekends. Dooners, with the noise from RMC’s 1998 harvest still ringing in their ears, signed a petition against the extended hours. Sunday cutting was removed from the Plan but Saturday work from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. is still being proposed. In a letter to CDF, Forester Gary Paul said that he had listened from Thayer Lane and could not hear a chainsaw running on the harvest area. CDF said that if more than one person was disturbed by chainsaws and contacted them, they would look into it.
Supervisors Stonewall RMC Quarry EIR Appeal
Unless the courts intervene, RMC Pacific Materials will have to prepare an Environmental Impact Report before it can expand its limestone quarry onto 17 acres along its northeast corner.
RMC’s appeal of the EIR requirement imposed by the Planning Dept. staff got a stony reception from both the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors this spring. Since an EIR is both costly and time-consuming, RMC is expected to try the legal system next. The last EIR they did, albeit for a much greater acreage, took almost six years.
Since RMC has claimed it is running out of useable limestone to feed its Davenport cement plant, the delay could have a significant impact. Besides the usual environmental effects of stripmining hundreds of feet of dirt (including of course all the trees and other living things that live on top of it), there is the impact the quarrying could have on the City of Santa Cruz’s Liddell Springs water intake, which supplies a significant portion of the city’s water. Quarry neighbors, too are concerned about impacts on their own water supplies.
Supervisor Mardi Wormhoudt took the lead in questioning RMC’s reasons for objecting to the EIR requirement.
RMC has already conducted a number of tests to determine how water gets to the Liddell Springs intake, without really learning much. The area is underlain by a karst aquifer, which is extremely fragile and unpredictable. Once it is disturbed, it would be very difficult or impossible to restore it to its original flow patterns. In a letter to the commissioners and supervisors, the RBDA board pointed this out.
Bill Kocher, City Water Dept. head, says that the way RMC’s most recent mining permit is written, RMC must prove that quarrying won’t affect the intake, not that the city has to prove it will. If RMC takes the issue to court, this could prove to be a significant legal point.
Where’s Waldorf? It’s Here. But Should It Be?
Many of you received a letter in late March from Waldorf School "clarifying" issues brought up by Jonathan Wittwer, the attorney representing neighbors who oppose its expansion, and reported in the March Highlander. Wittwer says neighbors are concerned about traffic, especially because of the increased number of public events that will be attended by up to 400 people; septic contamination of their wells; and possible depletion of the shared aquifer because of the school’s increased water use.
Only about 10% of the students at the Empire Grade school are Dooners. That prompts the main issue, according to Wittwer, which is that the private, non-profit school really should be within the urban services area, not in rural Bonny Doon. If it’s acceptable to have a private school in Bonny Doon with over 200 students on 5 acres, what’s to prevent others from springing up in the county’s rural areas?
On the other hand, after soliciting feedback in March, we didn’t hear objections to the expansion from any Dooners who don’t live near the school, and we know some consider it a valuable asset. But in the past, the RBDA has supported residents who are fighting development in their neighborhood. We’d like to hear from more of you on this at the May 8 RBDA meeting. For more information, see the March 2002 Highlander (available online at www.bonnydoon.got.net, the RBDA website).
Bonny Doon's voice in preserving our special quality of life, The Highlander,
Send mail correspondence to the Highlander Editor at the above
|RBDA Executive Board
The Bonny Doon Planning District
If you live in or own property within this district, roughly from Empire Grade to the ocean and from San Vicente Creek to the City of Santa Cruz border, you are eligible to be an RBDA member.
Back to the RBDA homepage
To the Highlander index