The next RBDA Meeting will be on
Wednesday, Sept. 13, 7:30 p.m.
Multi-Purpose Room, Bonny Doon School
Have a Great Summer!!
Note: The lead article in this issue of the printed Highlander, below, describes a July Coastal Commission hearing that was canceled just at press time. Please read this article with that knowledge in mind. Since this time, a great deal has occurred, including the Coastal Commission order that SCBI remove their entire operation from the ranch - goats and all. Visit the website of Friends of the North Coast for links to current information on this issue.
Coastal Commission Confronts County Supervisors on Biotech Goat Pharm
Taking on the Board of Supervisors majority, which inexplicably has ignored the very plain language of the law, the California Coastal Commission has challenged the issuance of emergency permits to Santa Cruz Biotechnology Inc. (SCBI). The permits would have allowed SCBI to take measures to better contain the rainy season runoff that has been laced with huge numbers of the disease causing coliform bacteria.
It's not that the Coastal Commission doesn't think that the runoff is dangerous to human health and the environment. In strongly worded letters to the supervisors, it stated that the situation doesn't meet the definition of an emergency, since the manure laden runoff has been flowing through the Coast Road neighborhood during all the storms of the last three years. Since heavy rains aren't expected until October, there's no urgency to issue permits now for improvements that would take a few weeks at most to construct.
The Coastal Commission, via its deputy director, Tami Grove, went right to the heart of the problem: that the SCBI goat pharm on Back Ranch Road was built without any permits and with very little oversight from county agencies, and that the waste from the huge number of goats (over 1,600) has endangered water quality and created the danger of erosion. The commission demanded that the supervisors order an immediate and substantial reduction in the number of goats, and removal of the piles of goat manure to a safe, off-site location.
Walt Symons, Jeff Almquist and Tony Campos, the three supervisors who have refused to substantially rein in the goat pharm, voted to issue the emergency permits, despite SCBI's brazen disregard for the county's own permit process and the Coastal Commission's opposition. They also refused, when confronted directly, to explain how the situation could be described as an emergency when the straightforward wording of the law clearly defines an emergency as you and I do, that is, "a sudden, unexpected occurrence demanding immediate action to prevent or mitigate loss or damage to life, health, property, or essential public services" (CCR Title 14, Section 13229).
In one letter to the supes, Coastal Commission Deputy Director Grove wrote:
"The water quality problems that are related to intensive livestock operations at SCB have been ongoing for at least over a one year period. We previously informed you on August 17, 1999 that an emergency did not appear to exist. Persistence of water quality problems for almost an additional year can in no way now be considered unexpected and sudden."In the long run, perhaps the most disturbing aspect of this situation is that representatives sworn to uphold the laws of our county are willing to arbitrarily make decisions that clearly violate those laws. It strikes at the heart of our democratic society when the authorities choose to ignore the rule of law. It pushes us toward anarchy and forces people pursuing legal remedies to a grievance to resort to outlaw actions.
Hopefully, the Coastal Commission will be able to prevail and return us to legality. The commission will hold a hearing in San Rafael in Marin County on Wednesday, July 12, on what actions to take to enforce the law and protect our neighborhoods and environment from the foul pollution flowing from SCBI's illegal operation. To get more information on this, log on to http://www.fonc.org or call Save Our Agricultural Land at 429-4196.
Ironically, the enormously profitable and privately held SCBI, owned by John and Brenda Stephenson, defends itself behind the cloak of its valuable role in combating disease, while jeopardizing the health of its neighbors, fish and wildlife.
Meanwhile, the Environmental Impact Study on the goat pharm will soon
be under way. Of course, this should have been done before the first goat
was trailered onto the ranch. It was only under pressure from environmental
and community groups, including the RBDA, that the supervisors passed an
ordinance requiring it.
Redwood Meadows Winery Hearing Set
The Planning Commission's hearing on the Redwood Meadows Ranch Winery application will take place, at long last, at 9 a.m. on July 12 in the Board of Supervisors Chambers, 701 Ocean St. It will finally give the public a chance to comment on the controversial proposal.
The hearing has importance beyond Bonny Doon and this particular case, because it could set a precedent for whether renting the facility out for social events like weddings is an integral use of a winery today, in order to successfully promote its wines.
The winery's owners, principally Bill and Robin Cunningham, are seeking a coastal permit, a grading permit and a commercial use permit for a winery with a maximum annual production of 50- to 100,000 gallons, a 15,000 square foot winery, an 1,800 square foot wine tasting building, an 886 square foot office, a vineyard, an olive grove, 12 events per year with up to 195 people, 24 events per year with up to 150 people, and 24 events of up to 100 people. The merits of the project have been debated for more than two years.
Neighboring property owners, organized as Concerned Homeowners of Redwood Meadows (CHRM), strongly oppose the proposal because they fear its impact on their gated neighborhood, which shares a private road into the ranch with the proposed facility (Brisa del Mar, off Bonny Doon Road just north of and across from Smith Grade).
CHRM members say they knew that a winery was planned for Redwood Meadows, but were told it would be smaller than the present proposal. They claim they didn't know it would be rented for social events.
The Cunninghams say drawings and statements made to the lot owners clearly indicated they planned a winery like the one proposed. They also say that the lot owners signed disclaimers stating they knew the winery would be open to the public. The CHRM neighbors say they thought this meant that there would be a tasting room like the one at nearby Bonny Doon Vineyards.
The RBDA Executive Board opposes the use of the winery for events except for those specifically related to selling wine, like tastings or dinners for restaurateurs or wine merchants. We feel that the impact on the neighborhood from traffic and noise is unacceptable, even though the Cunninghams have promised to make every effort to minimize the impact. We don't doubt the Cunninghams’ good intentions, but are concerned about the benevolence of any future owner should the Cunninghams sell. We also worry that if the vineyard fails (like Randall Grahm's and the late Dean McHenry's, who had much more experience than the Cunninghams and still lost their vines to disease; and the Cunninghams lost the first vineyard to "gophers"), all we will be left with is an events venue, which never would have been allowed without its viticultural tie.
The capacity of the proposed winery is much larger than that of the planned vineyard, which means a lot of the grapes will be trucked in. How many times larger is a matter of debate. Former county planner Mike Ferry thought the vineyard would only yield enough grapes for about 10,000 cases. An experienced grape grower has told us even that is much too high. The Cunninghams say they can grow enough grapes for many more cases, but they concede that most of the grapes would have to be trucked in, which they say most wineries do.
To learn more about why the neighbors are opposing the project, call
CHRM at 457-7986, or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
To get the Cunninghams’ side, call 458-2864 or e-mail them at email@example.com.
New Deputy Sheriff a Natural for Bonny Doon
The deputy sheriff assigned to the new North Coast beat (including Davenport and Bonny Doon) is Stefan Fish, a Santa Cruz native who has lived on the west side all his life.
Sheriff Mark Tracy has committed to the new assignment for three years, after which it will be reevaluated.
During an interview conducted at the Martin Road Fire Station, Fish told the Highlander that he is well acquainted with Bonny Doon and the North Coast and enthusiastically volunteered for the new beat.
"The people in Bonny Doon are all different, but they know what they want and work hard to get it. It's good to work with people like that," Fish told the Highlander.
Fish also said he is familiar with the Ecological Reserve and is anxious to do anything that he can to help maintain its beauty and integrity. He plans to work closely with the state Fish and Game Department to protect its fragile resources from vandalism (see story in Highlander Highlights on page 4). He recommended that the residents make their wishes known regarding parking restrictions on the roads near the reserve.
He noted that restricting parking not only will help keep visitors away from the restricted areas of the reserve, but will help safety because some drivers park with their car's wheels on the narrow road.
A graduate of Santa Cruz High School and Cabrillo College, Fish, 28,
has been a deputy for three years, after a stint as a security supervisor
with the Seaside Company (the Boardwalk). He is married, has a two-year-old
daughter and expects a son next month.
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Iron Monsters Threaten Motorists in Cave Gulch
Beware the iron monsters, which lurk in Cave Gulch. Of course, we're talking about the cars parked close to or on the roadway of Empire Grade uphill from the UCSC campus.
The series of climbing "S" curves make the narrow, much used road perilous at best. With the growing student population and limited parking on campus (which leads to random parking along Empire Grade), and the oversized truck traffic, this situation has become worse in the past year. (We're grateful for the summer respite, but know that the fall will bring the parkers back in droves).
This section of Empire is just not wide enough to handle such haphazard parking, combined with the steady traffic, in a safe manner. We wonder why CHP and the Sheriff's officers never seem to ticket those who park their cars partially on the road? The same officers who, with the help of Public Works, seemed to solve the parking at the west entrance to the university, ignore the illegal and dangerous parking in Cave Gulch.
We encourage Bonny Dooners to report illegally parked cars to the CHP or Sheriff so that we can have a safe, southern approach to our community.
Distant Rumble of Things to Come?
Has anyone else noticed the increased drone of huge engines and the sharp beep of backup warnings coming from the RMC Quarry on many days recently? Is it because RMC Pacific Materials (AKA: RMC Lonestar) is grabbing limestone higher up on the slopes below Smith Grade? If that is the case, can you imagine how loud it would be if they ever expand the quarry to the four residential properties they own right along the road, eliminating the protecting hills and trees in the process?
In contrast, the company has been very quiet about its expansion plans. In the last three years, RMC has allowed to expire two applications to expand quarrying within its "white zone," the area where mining is permitted.
Deputy Rescues the Eco Reserve
The value of having a deputy sheriff assigned permanently to the North Coast, and the dangers threatening the Bonny Doon Ecological Reserve, were both dramatically illustrated last month.
Cruising Martin Road, the Deputy Sheriff Kevin Coyne spotted a car parked illegally. Sounds of explosions led him to three young men who had thousands of firecrackers, including some bottle rockets and mini-mortars.
His timely detention of the trio not only prevented the launching of
a fire that could have destroyed the rare plants of the reserve, but might
have spread to other areas of Bonny Doon.
Bonny Doon's voice in preserving our special quality of life, The Highlander,
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