Guy Kovner, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
A prolonged public hearing that highlighted divisions on the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors and in the rural community of Cazadero concluded Tuesday night with a 3-2 vote finalizing an expansion plan for a Buddhist retreat in the coastal hills.
The four-hour hearing before a crowd that spilled into a hallway focused on whether Ratna Ling Retreat Center’s book storage and printing press — the latter described by critics as an “industrial” facility — posed a fire hazard in the wooded hills.
But the vote, with Board Chairman David Rabbitt and Supervisors Efren Carrillo and Mike McGuire voting to approve the expansion plan, did not cover the press used to print Tibetan Buddhist texts. The county signed off on the press in 2004, according to a county planning staff report.
Supervisors Shirlee Zane and Susan Gorin applauded Ratna Ling’s goal of preserving sacred texts in four existing buildings on the Hauser Road property, but voted against the project, calling it a poor land use precedent in an era of prolonged drought.