Will Carruthers, SONOMA COUNTY GAZETTE
The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors Tuesday heard public comment on six lawsuits against the county, approved an amendment to the county’s mining ordinance and granted county employees affected by the fires 40 hours of leave time.
Friends of Chanate
The Supervisors received public comment on six lawsuits against the county before discussing the cases behind closed doors. One of the suits, Friends of Chanate vs. County of Sonoma, alleges that the County gave a local developer a sweetheart deal in its sale of a plot of public land.
Friends of Chanate argues that Bill Gallaher, a local developer, bought the 82-acre parcel of county land for between $6 and $12.5 million, far below the assessed value of the land, $30 million.
“That property was worth more than $6 million, even if you build only 40 luxury homes on the land,” a Friends of Chanate member said during the public comment period.
In late July, a judge in the lawsuit canceled the sale, disagreeing with the County’s assessment that the land deal was exempt from the California Environmental Quality Act.
Mining Ordinance Amendment
The Board of Supervisors amended a sentence of the County’s Mining Ordinance to “clarify that setbacks to critical habitat do not retroactively apply to quarry sites” affected under a new definition of critical habitat passed as part of the 2012 General Plan.
The amendment will allow two quarries located within 47,383 acres defined as Tiger Salamander critical habitat based a map from the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service to operate.
The two affected quarries – Stony Point Quarry and Roblar Road Quarry – were granted permits to operate before the new rules went into effect.
Stony Point Quarry has been active for 90 years while Roblar Road Quarry received permission to operate in 2010, before the new definition was passed, according to a staff report.
“There was never any expectation that the setbacks would apply to these quarries, and these setbacks were not intended to apply retroactively,” the staff report states.
John Barella, the owner of the quarry, first applied to develop the land in 2003 but the project has been significantly delayed by environmental lawsuits. In 2014, a three-judge panel approved Barella’s plans in a lawsuit brought by the Citizens Advocating for Roblar Rural Quality.
In 2017, Barella restarted the process of applying forpublic approval for the quarry and applied for a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers earlier this year.
When asked by Zane why the item was before the board, a county staff member said that Roblar Road Quarry “will be proposing some changes to their conditions of approval and you will see that project come before you next month.”