Letter to the Editor, Petaluma360.com
Donna Spilman and Sue Buxton, Petaluma
Recently, Superior Court Judge Elliott Daum dismissed a lawsuit filed by local dairy ranchers Kathy and Joe Tresch and Ken and Nancy Mazzetta and the Citizens Advocating Roblar Rural Quality that challenged the use of a conservation easement to do habitat mitigation for endangered California tiger salamanders on land adjacent to the Roblar Road quarry.
The open space lawsuit asked the court to require the Sonoma County Agriculture Preservation and Open Space District to follow the provisions of the California Environmental Quality Act before issuing a resolution allowing mitigation of the effects of the proposed quarry on land subject to a conservation easement. Two other lawsuits that seek to require the county to comply with CEQA before permitting the proposed quarry are still pending.
In 2004, the open space district used $2.3 million in tax dollars to purchase a conservation easement from the quarry developer on 757 acres on Roblar Road adjacent to the quarry site. The easement was intended to protect the land in perpetuity from development. The easement was later sold to the Tresches and another land owner.
When the Board of Supervisors approved the quarry project last December, they also made a precedent-setting decision to allow California tiger salamander mitigation on the already preserved land. The decision about the conservation easement land was made without the consent of the Tresch family. As a result, new restrictions have been placed on how the Tresches can use their own land.
The supervisors' decision caught the attention of the Council of California Land Trusts and state officials this year. Senate Bill 436, sponsored by Senator Christine Kehoe and co-authored by Assembly members Luis Alejo and Wes Chesbro, will amend the government code by adding language stating: “A property that has been previously protected for conservation purposes, including the placement of a conservation easement on the property, may not be used for mitigation purposes.”
The Citizens Advocating Roblar Rural Quality and the ranchers may decide to appeal the decision once the court issues a final judgment.