Judge dismisses legal challenge to Paul Hobbs vineyard

Bill Swindell, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
A judge has dismissed a challenge to Sonoma County’s approval of the controversial Paul Hobbs Winery vineyard project in Sebastopol, potentially ending a long-running legal dispute between the vintner known for his luxury wines and community activists who contend the 39-acre development poses serious environmental problems.
Sonoma County Superior Court Judge Gary Nadler on April 29 dismissed the claim by the Watertrough Children’s Alliance that the county erred in approving the vineyard conversion project.
The group argued that the county should have conducted a review under the stringent California Environmental Quality Act, given that schoolchildren could be exposed to pesticides from the new vineyard. Instead, the county used its 15-year-old Vineyard Erosion and Soil Control Ordinance for its review.
The case hinged on the difference between two words. The alliance argued that the project was a “discretionary” conversion under CEQA, but Sonoma County and Hobbs argued that the decision to approve the vineyard project was more “ministerial” and should be exempt from state law.
Nadler agreed with Hobbs and the county, ruling that the county’s actions — including ordering reports, choosing a consultant, inspecting the work and ordering changes — did not demonstrate the permit approval was discretionary.
Read more via: Judge dismisses legal challenge to Paul Hobbs vineyard | The Press Democrat

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