Mushroom composter cancels move

June 13, 2002



The Petaluma Mushroom Farm is halting plans to move its controversial
composting operation to the rural community of Bloomfield, choosing
instead to relocate it in another county.

Residents in the enclave of about 100 families had challenged the move in
a lawsuit, saying an environmental impact report should have been
ordered before the supervisors approved the relocation.

The case was to be heard today in Sonoma County Superior Court.

"They found a better alternative to resolve their composting requirements
and potential expansion needs, in a county that has a more welcoming
environment," said Eric Koenigshofer, the farm's attorney.

Koenigshofer, a former Sonoma County supervisor, wouldn't say where
the farm plans to produce its compost.

In Bloomfield, a spokesman for the Bloomfield Rural Alliance, which
campaigned against the farm's plan to move its composting operation to
an 89-acre site on Roblar Road, posted signs that read: "Hearing
Canceled, PMF Pulled Out, Permit Revoked, We Won, Thanks

"This is a community that really appreciates its uniqueness and very
special nature, and really comes together when that's threatened," Meg
Shores said.

In January, county supervisors gave the farm until July 1 to move its
composting operation from its facility on Thompson Lane, west of

The vote shortened by six months a one-year extension on moving that
the supervisors had earlier granted the farm.

At the time, farm manager Duncan Soldner told the supervisors he
couldn't find anyone to buy compost from and that it was too expensive to

The supervisors, in a 5-0 vote, noted they had given the farm previous
extensions and said it was time to act.

Complaints over odors

The vote followed nearly two decades of neighbors' complaints about foul
composting odors from the farm, which produces about 100,000 pounds
of mushrooms a week, many of which are sold in Sonoma County
grocery stores.

In May, the county approved the farm's proposal for a
155,000-square-foot composting and processing plant at the Roblar
Road site, about 15 miles northwest of Petaluma.

But on Wednesday, Koenigshofer said the farm "does not intend to
develop the Roblar Road site" and will ask the Board of Supervisors to
extend the July 1 deadline.

"The other source of compost won't be in production for another six to
eight months," he said.

Neighbors of the Thompson Lane facility said they will fight the request.

"We're pretty disgusted with them," a neighbor and longtime opponent
 said of the farm.

"Every time we go in there expecting some progress, it's always back to
square one," she said. "All they want is business as usual and give us
more time.'"

Back to supervisors

The supervisors probably will hear the request in July or August, said
Traci Tesconi, of the county's Department of Permit Resource

"I'm not sure what the board's going to do," said Supervisor Mike Kerns,
whose district includes the farm. "It's certainly my desire to get that
composting operation out of the Thompson Lane facility."

At the same time, Kerns said, "the question for our board will be
basically, are we going to put them out of business or not, and I'm always
reluctant to do that if there's some other way of resolving the problem."

Koenigshofer said the farm has no plans to move the remainder of its
mushroom production operations elsewhere.

You can reach Staff Writer Jeremy Hay at 762-9667 or

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