Mushroom farm faces deadline, violations
Petaluma Argus-Courier
January 2, 2003


The Petaluma Mushroom Farm on Thompson Lane will be in violation of its use permit and liable for abatement, fines, or closure if it doesn't cease its composting operation, according to county officials.

Sonoma County officials said on Monday the Petaluma Mushroom Farm will be in violation of its use permit if it continues to make compost at its Thompson Lane facility after a Dec. 31 deadline.

The pronouncement came after the county's Permit and Resource Department Director Pete Parkinson received a letter from mushroom farm owner Dave Cerini requesting a one-month extension.

The letter arrived Friday, Dec. 27, four days before the deadline, but Parkinson said he did not see it until Monday morning.

An extension would have to be granted by the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors. Parkinson said it will take some time to put the request on the agenda.

In the meantime, the farm is in violation of its use permit and liable for abatement, fines, or even closure, according to county officials.

"I was under the assumption that they were going to meet the deadline," said south county Supervisor Mike Kerns. "As far as I know, if they are still composting after Dec. 31 they are in violation of their use permit. They have told me all along that everything was moving forward on time."

When Kerns voted for the six-month extension in July he said it was absolutely the last time he would consider it. And there is no interest among supervisors to grant another extension, he said Monday.

If supervisors were to grant the request it would be the fifth extension for the mushroom farm since the county ordered it to shut down composting operations in 2000.

The compost, which is produced at the farm as a growing medium for mushrooms, has been a bone of contention between the company and Thompson Lane residents for several years. Neighbors complain that the stench is sometimes overwhelming.

But that's not the only problem. The San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board has also cited the farm for polluting the groundwater with runoff from the compost.

A Thompson Lane resident who has been fighting to close down the mushroom farm composting, said she was disappointed by the request for an extension.

"They, for some reason, think it might be good to drag this out as long as possible," she said.

In July supervisors granted the mushroom farm a six-month extension until Dec. 31. Mushroom farm officials said that would give them time to complete construction of a new facility in Colusa County for composting and addition mushroom production.

But Colusa County planning department officials said the mushroom farm has obtained a permit for a sump pit and foundation at the new site, but no permit for construction of a facility.

Colusa County planner Jim Little said the new facility will be located on a 10-acre site in an industrial park. Because mushroom growing is allowed in an industrial area, there is no requirement for a use permit.
Little estimated that the new facility would be ready sometime in the spring.

(Contact Lois Pearlman at

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