Next RBDA General Meeting
Sept. 12, 2007, 7:30 PM
Multi-Purpose Room, Bonny Doon School
ICE CREAM GRADE & PINE FLAT ROAD
|BLM Inching Closer to Coast Dairies Takeover
The last hurdles to the acquisition of the Coast Dairies “dry side” lands (inland of Highway 1) by the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) are nearly cleared. At the same time, Davenport residents, who have been fighting to require only organic farming on agricultural parcels bordering the town when those are transferred to the county Farm Bureau’s non-profit arm Agri-Culture, are clutching at their last straws.
The “wet side” acres (ocean side of Highway 1), 407 acres of the nearly 7,000-acre North Coast property, were transferred by the owner, Coast Dairies & Land Co., a non-profit entity established by the Trust for Public Land (TPL), to State Parks a year ago. TPL acquired Coast Dairies nine years ago, largely thanks to a huge grant from the Packard Foundation, which represented about 2/3 of the $45 million purchase price.
The Coast Dairies property, which begins north of Wilder State Park and stretches north of Davenport, includes seven beaches and six watersheds. TPL originally planned to own and manage this astoundingly beautiful portion of the North Coast for just a couple of years while arrangements were made to transfer it to permanent caretakers. Maintenance of the property reportedly costs TPL over a million dollars a year.
After it acquired the land, TPL established an advisory committee to determine how the property should be used. All the various stakeholders—environmentalists, Davenport and other North Coast residents and organizations, including the RBDA, cyclists, hikers and equestrians, farmers, etc.—were invited to participate. After a couple of years and vociferous disagreements, the advisory committee was quietly disbanded, leaving TPL to decide what to do.
Various governmental and other organizations tried to exert some influence, but TPL has largely managed to avoid strict regulations, except for the strong deed restrictions the purchase price donors insisted on. These included public access, no motorized off-road vehicles except on established roadways, a ban on commercial timbering and mining (Coast Dairies & Land Co. retains all mineral rights), protection of wildlife, which include some rare and endangered species, and preservation of the agricultural parcels. However, State Fish & Game has placed the future of farming in jeopardy by challenging the water rights as it tries to keep enough water in the creeks to protect endangered native fish species.
One area of concern is that State Parks, BLM and Agri-Culture would not agree to TPL’s request to never exchange the land they are getting for other properties. But even if they did, the deed restrictions presumably would remain in effect.
The County had hoped to exert some control over what became of the agricultural parcels because it was thought a subdivision would be needed to split them off, but TPL has found a way around that. Now, Supervisor Neal Coonerty is reduced to trying to influence the Farm Bureau to provide guarantees that any new or replacement housing will be modest and respectful of the property and to agree to limit the farms abutting Davenport to organic farming, something the residents of the Newtown neighborhood are desperate to achieve to avoid pesticide drift into their yards and homes.
What will BLM do with its huge 5,700 acre new holding when it is transferred later this year? There are sure to be battles over public use as mountain bikers, equestrians and hikers slug it out. How much supervision will BLM be able to do with such a sprawling property, given the many points of entry available? How strong will the prohibitions on mining or logging prove to be, given BLM’s checkered history and vulnerability to the politics of its bosses and the ever changing administrations in our nation’s capital? We have gained a magnificent treasure, but we will have to maintain vigilance and energy to ensure that it is treated lovingly and doesn’t deteriorate under its new master.
UCSC Expansion EIR Lawsuits Head for Superior Court Showdown
Behind the scenes negotiations are heating up as the various lawsuits seeking to invalidate the Environmental Impact Report for UCSC’s Long Range Development Plan (LRDP) are set to be heard in Santa Cruz Superior Court before Judge Paul Burdick on July 13.
The pressure on UCSC has been ratcheted up by the State Legislature, thanks to Assemblyman John Laird and State Senator Joe Simitian, who pushed through language in the UC budget that requires it to take into account the impacts on local communities resulting from the growth of its various campuses. UC is constitutionally walled off from local agency land use regulations. An additional squeeze on UC comes from a State Supreme Court decision that requires Cal State campuses to fund their share of mitigating the various impacts off-campus as well as on.
UCSC has been negotiating with the City and the County Board of Supervisors over their LRDP EIR suit, but not with the Coalition for Limiting University Expansion (CLUE), a community group that has filed a similar suit that has been joined by the RBDA. Even if the City Council and the Supervisors agree to an out-of-court settlement, CLUE might not drop its suit, which also includes a challenge to how UC determines which campuses to expand.
Meanwhile, the City Council is proceeding with plans to put Measures I & J back on the ballot. The two measures, passed last fall with over 75% support, required a vote of the City electorate before the City could apply to the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCo) to extend sewer and water services to the upper campus, which is outside city limits, and would have forced UCSC to pay for the increased City services required by its growth The measures were overturned two months ago in a suit brought by UCSC, on a technicality over inadequate public notice.
CLUE, the Sierra Club and the RBDA have also contested UCSC’s plan to start cutting trees for some projects related to its new LRDP. At a hearing for UCSC’s Timber Harvest Plan application last month, representatives of the three community groups asked the California Dept. of Forestry and Fire Protection (CalFire) to delay approval of the timber plan until the validity of the LRDP EIR is proven in court.
Cemex Quarry Addition EIR, Air Studies Still on Hold
On May 12 the RBDA Board and Cemex’s Smith Grade neighbors met with several Cemex officials to tour the site where the cement maker wants to add 17 acres to its limestone quarry. The application for this quarry expansion was submitted to the County over seven years ago. Figuring out how the new open-pit site will affect the City of Santa Cruz’s Liddell Springs water intake has kept the application on hold.
The Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the quarry expansion is under preparation by a firm approved and retained by the County, and rumored to be ready for public release for several months now. The actual date when it will become available is still unknown.
Cemex is trying hard to win support for the expansion. They are “scraping the bowl” in their current quarry and have run out of some types of limestone necessary for high-quality cement. Cemex has been importing some of the limestone for over a year as a “sweetener,” though importing a large percentage of the limestone needed is not economical in the long run. Without a quarry to serve it long term, the cement plant would likely close. Even with the expansion, the 100-year-old plant’s time will probably be up in less than 20 years, perhaps considerably less, depending on the actual amount of limestone produced by the quarry expansion.
The first phase of the quarry expansion process is up to two years of clearing all vegetation from the 17 acres of redwood forest before beginning the next phase of excavating in 40 foot benches and beginning daily quarry operations, which includes blasting twice per week in accordance with the permit requirements and ongoing heavy truck traffic within the quarry property. There is a 1,000 foot buffer zone between the proposed expansion and nearby homes on Smith Grade. If this ever sounded like an adequate buffer zone, the site visit was sobering for Smith Grade neighbors as they got a chance to see exactly where quarry activities would be in relation to their homes.
Striving to be a good neighbor while still moving forward with expansion plans, Cemex is eager to mitigate what they can for neighbors and suggested the formation of a Bonny Doon community liaison group, like the one in Davenport, to keep ongoing lines of communication open. Ultimately, nothing effectively mitigates a 17-acre quarry operation moving in next door to you. But Cemex officials and neighbors discussed initial noise mitigations during the site tour which could make some aspects of the process less intolerable. These included designing truck routes to minimize noise and alternatives for vehicle back-up beeps. Cemex has experimented successfully in other locations with getting regulatory permission to use vehicle back-up beeps that sound like ducks quacking instead of the usual piercing beeps. They offered to pursue getting approval to use these on their vehicles.
Cemex is continuing to work on issues relating to Liddell Springs, which will be addressed in the EIR process, along with any other mitigation measures that may be required by the County. In addition, Cemex is evaluating possible conservation programs such as wildlife corridors for portions of their property.
In the meantime, Cemex is trying to figure out why the readings on cement plant stack emissions conducted in 2004 produced high carbon monoxide levels and whether other emissions from the stacks are creating health hazards for Davenport. The emissions were analyzed when Cemex switched to making use of slag, a steelmaking waste product, instead of shale in their process. The resulting emissions are being evaluated by the Monterey Bay Unified Air Pollution Control District.
On June 5, representatives from the Air District made a presentation in Davenport to explain to concerned residents the process for figuring out if emissions are endangering them. A Health Risk Assessment was submitted in June, as required by the Air District. This emissions analysis is plugged into an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved model and protocol that makes predictions, based on local conditions like weather and topography, about health risks from the emissions. Unfortunately, the process is long and complicated and, if there are problems—i.e, risks above a certain level—the plant has up to 10 years to fix them. At the meeting RBDA representatives and Davenport residents asked the Air District to place monitors at several locations to determine whether reality matches the predicted results of the EPA computer model regarding the spread of the emissions, so Davenport, and perhaps also Bonny Doon residents, can breathe easier.
Winery Events Center Not Yet Toast
Six years after the Planning Commission turned down an application to allow a major event center at the Redwood Meadows Ranch subdivision off Bonny Doon Road near Smith Grade, owners Bill and Robin Cunningham may be planning to try again.
The Cunningham’s controversial application was to have up to 12 events a year with up to 195 people, 24 events per year with up to 150 people, and 24 events of up to 100 people. This application was pared down after the RBDA and Redwood Meadows Ranch residents opposed it. The commissioners agreed with the argument that the County’s General Plan doesn’t allow commercial development in Bonny Doon, and the 47-acre property is in an Open Space Easement for agriculture. Instead, the Commission approved only a tasting room, permitted to operate up to 6 p.m., and allowed 60 small events per year, with no more than 50 guests at a time, and with no more than two per month at night, up to 10 p.m.
In the interim, nearly nothing has happened. No grapes have been planted, no buildings started, and the Cunninghams have put the property up for sale, so far unsuccessfully.
Santa Cruz is more and more on the map as a wine-grape region, with local vintners and orchardists receiving more and more recognition. The Beauregards successfully started their own label (without creating an event center to fund it) and have begun work on a new vineyard on leased land at the corner of Smith Grade and Bonny Doon Road. Your board supports agriculture, viticulture, and appropriately sized tasting rooms, but not large event centers created under that guise.
First Approval for TPZ Parcel Size Increase
On May 22 the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors conceptually approved increasing the minimum parcel size for rezoning to Timber Production Zone from five to 40 acres. The decision won’t be final until the item works its way through the Planning Commission for hearings and then back to the Board for a final vote. This final vote could be made as early as July or August.
When the new minimum size is approved, the County is bound by state law to rezone to TPZ single or multiple adjacent parcels in one ownership, as long as the total comes to the minimum size. Additionally, the Board voted to allow smaller parcels to come before the Board on a case-by-case basis. While this means that the Board may decide not to rezone some of the more problematic parcels, it also means that the public will need to attend hearings and make its voice heard where it has concerns. Per state law, the landowner will be required to have a Timber Management Plan prepared by a Registered Professional Forester and a map showing the location of the property. These will be submitted to the County along with the rezone application and an application processing deposit of about $1,700.
The Board also voted to allow a grace period through December 31, 2007 for applicants to rezone under the current five acre minimum parcel size. Applications for this must be submitted to the county by September 21 and found complete by December 31 to be processed under the five acre minimum.
No Official Word on Proposed Bonny Doon Fire District
There are no public meetings scheduled and no official movement at LAFCo to date on the Bonny Doon Fire Protection District proposal. In the meantime, Bonny Doon Fire and Rescue Board Chair Tom Scully encourages residents to continue asking clarifying and challenging questions about how the proposal will affect them. He and other Board members have offered to meet with any local group interested in discussing the proposal.
The proposed fire district boundaries run from below Cave Gulch to above Braemoor Drive, and from upper Pine Flat to lower Bonny Doon Road. For a map of the proposed district, see bonnydoonfire.com/district.htm. Contact Tom Scully at 425-1432 or TomScully@comcast.net for more information.
Celebrate Bonny Doon
This is the 50th year of the RBDA, and we are planning to put together a celebration to mark its success in preserving the rural and natural qualities of this unique part of California.
Do you have stories to share about the RBDA’s history, or life in Bonny Doon? We are also looking for people to help put the celebration together, at the September or November RBDA meeting. For this to be a fun and meaningful event, we need help from the RBDA membership. We would like to make this a potluck with music, so we’ll need a crew to organize it, set up and clean up, musicians, and of course some story tellers.
If you can help out, contact RBDA Corresponding Secretary Yana Jacobs at 423-9193, or through the RBDA website. Contact info below.
RBDA Board Actions 6/6/07: Approved amended 4/4/07 board meeting minutes.
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