Sonoma County Buddhist retreat center prevails in long-running lawsuit over expansion plan

J.D. Morris, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
A three-year legal fight over the controversial expansion of a Buddhist retreat and publishing operation in rural northwestern Sonoma County came to an end this week when the California Supreme Court declined to hear opponents’ final challenge.
The high court’s Aug. 9 decision leaves in place an earlier ruling from the 1st District Court of Appeal, which decided the county was not required to conduct the kind of comprehensive environmental review sought by residents concerned about the planned expansion of the Ratna Ling Retreat Center.
Fueled largely by concerns about fire risk at the retreat facility in the forested coastal hills northwest of Cazadero, opponents had wanted the state Supreme Court to review the appeals court’s May 16 ruling. The opponents’ failure to receive such a review marks the conclusion of their lengthy legal dispute, which began in 2014 when residents sued claiming the retreat center violated land-use standards and county officials had not conducted a proper environmental analysis.
Ultimately, the case centered around four tentlike storage structures Ratna Ling uses to house sacred texts. Opponents argued those tents posed a fire risk, but Ratna Ling supporters have contended they are safe, and noted the center implemented safeguards such as sprinklers and an on-site fire engine.
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