Compost permit extension denied
Mushroom grower could face fine for delay

January 4, 2003



Sonoma County planners denied a request from the Petaluma Mushroom Farm to continue making compost for another 30 days and could fine the company for violating a Dec. 31 deadline to stop, county officials said Friday.

After granting several extensions for the compost operation despite years of protests by neighbors, the county's tough stance was good news to neighbors.

"The county did finally get a backbone on this," said a neighbor, who lives near the farm and is a member of the Northwest Petaluma Rural Alliance.

The group says the malodorous composting operation has adversely affected neighbors' quality of life and the environment.

"We look forward to the enforcement of the use permit and the restoration of our neighborhood," he said.

Farm officials did not return calls Friday.

Although no decision has yet been made regarding a possible penalty against Petaluma Mushroom Farm, the county can impose a fine on code violators amounting to three to five times the cost of the enforcement action, county planner Tracy Tesconi said.

The company was supposed to cease the composting operation by Dec. 31 and move it to a new facility in Colusa, north of Sacramento.

A code enforcement official who visited the farm at 782 Thompson Lane on Thursday found piles of compost on the concrete pad used to make the material, Tesconi said.

"They are not in compliance," she said.

Company President David Cerini wrote to the county Dec. 23 asking for a 30-day extension to allow for completion of the Colusa composting facility.

Pete Parkinson, director of the county's Permit and Resource Management Department, wrote to Cerini on Dec. 30 denying his request and ordering him to remove the composting operation from the farm by Dec. 31.

Parkinson told Cerini county staff had no authority to extend a deadline imposed by county supervisors, who said last year they were not inclined to grant any more extensions of the farm's composting permit.

The company is planning to move its entire mushroom operation to the Sacramento Valley, according to county Supervisor Mike Kerns.

The owners will then develop a new business at the Thompson Lane site, he said.

The company has 80 workers and has produced 5 million pounds of mushrooms a year, worth an estimated $4.5 million.

You can reach Staff Writer Jose L. Sanchez Jr. at 762-7297 or

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