Matt Brown, PETALUMA ARGUS-COURIER
Petaluma city leaders are forging ahead with plans to create public trails on Lafferty Ranch, a scenic Sonoma Mountain property east of town that the city has owned for decades but has been tied up in legal disputes for a generation.
Disputes over public access to the 270 acres of wooded, rolling hills the city has owned since 1959 have polarized Petaluma politics since the 1990s, when council meetings overflowed with angry constituents and devolved into shouting matches.
Multiple legal claims have been fought, while mediation and near-agreements have played out behind the scenes.
But it now appears Petaluma believes it has the legal right to move forward with public access without a court order.
A lawsuit against adjoining property owners Kimberly Pfendler and the Bettman-Tavernetti families, pressed six years ago by open space advocates Friends of Lafferty Park and the city, was withdrawn in April with no agreement.
Mediation talks to allow some kind of public access broke down when the parties could not agree on access to parking and where trails might be allowed.
Sonoma County Superior Court records show the case was dismissed without a resolution.
“We did not reach a settlement and we are not going to reach a settlement,” City Attorney Eric Danly said. “It is not in litigation any more. The parties have withdrawn from mediation.”