Santa Rosa Press Democrat

NEW APPEAL ON MUSHROOM FARM

  Published on November 7, 2001
  © 2001- The Press Democrat

  BYLINE:    GUY KOVNER

  A newly formed citizens group has appealed the Sonoma County Board of
  Zoning Adjustments' decision to give Petaluma Mushroom Farm another
  year to move its composting operation away from Thompson Lane.

  The appeal, filed Monday by the Northwest Petaluma Rural Alliance, marks
  the second time this year that mushroom farm opponents have appealed a
  zoning board action to the county supervisors.

  Eric Koenigshofer, the mushroom farm's attorney, said a lawsuit filed in
  September by Bloomfield residents opposed to a new mushroom farm
  near their homes is one reason the Thompson Lane residents will get no
  relief this year.

  ``We've done virtually everything we can,'' Koenigshofer said, to relocate
  the odor-causing composting operation to another site.

  Residents of the Middle Two Rock Road area objected last year to the
  mushroom farm's first choice of a new site, prompting farm owner Dave
  Cerini to sell land in that area and buy the 89-acre parcel on Valley Ford
  Road at Roblar Road, Koenigshofer noted.

  Construction of the Roblar Road farm would have started by now, he said,
  but for the suit filed by the Bloomfield Rural Alliance, alleging that the
  supervisors approved the project without adequate environmental review.

  Meanwhile, the county had given Cerini a Nov. 1 deadline to remove the
  composting operation from the farm on Thompson Lane, where neighbors
  have complained about the farm's odor, noise, water consumption and
  truck traffic since 1983.

  Last month, the zoning board voted 4-1 to extend the deadline to Nov. 1,
  2002.

  ``We predicted it would take years'' to move the composting, said a
  critic of the Thompson Lane farm.

  The county's largest mushroom farm, producing about 100,000 pounds of
  edible fungus a week, also has a history of violating zoning and water
  pollution control codes.

  At a county hearing in January, Duane Butler, a engineer hired by Cerini,
  described the Thompson Lane farm -- in operation since 1973 -- as ``a
  marginal project gone bad.''

  A neighbor said Monday the odor from processing 500 tons
 of wet compost a week still annoys residents, including newcomers who
  were told the composting would be relocated.

  Eight residents put up the $849 fee to appeal the deadline extension,
  the neighbor said, and she is going door-to-door to get more donations to
  spread the cost.

  The neighbor said she wished the zoning board had pressed the mushroom farm
  about possibly obtaining compost from another manufacturer.

  ``We're asking them to keep the promise to us that the composting would
  cease Nov. 1,'' she said.

  Koenigshofer said Supervisor Mike Kerns, who represents the Petaluma
  area, told him that question will be asked when the supervisors hear the
  appeal.

  ``We understand the frustration of the people in the Thompson Lane area,''
  Koenigshofer said.

  The nearest mushroom compost producer is in Ventura

  County, and the straw-based compost cannot be trucked that far, he said.

  If another company in Sonoma County were to undertake mushroom
  compost production, it would require new facilities and a county permit, just
  as the Roblar Road mushroom farm did, Koenigshofer said.

  In their lawsuit, Bloomfield residents said the county failed to adequately
  address possible hazards of the new mushroom farm, including airborne
  mold, odor and water pollution.

  The supervisors approved a permit for the Roblar Road farm in May, with
  Kerns saying Cerini had ``bent over backwards'' to address the Bloomfield
  residents' concerns.

  The county zoning board board had approved the new mushroom farm in
  January, prompting the Bloomfield group to file the first appeal to the
  supervisors.

  No date has been set for the supervisors to hear the appeal by the
  Northwest Petaluma Rural Alliance, county planner Traci Tesconi said
  Tuesday.

  The alliance has scheduled a public meeting to discuss the mushroom farm
  at 7 p.m. Nov. 14 at the Rancho Adobe Fire Station, Old Redwood
  Highway and Main St., Penngrove.

  You can reach Staff Writer Guy Kovner at 762-7297 or e-mail
  gkovner@pressdemocrat.com.
 

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