At the request of their planning department, county supervisors plunged reluctantly but gamely Tuesday into one of the county’s most intractable problems — regulating temporary events that county landowners might choose to hold on their property.
Various arms of the county government have been working at this for five years, joined at times by agricultural, environmental and neighborhood groups. One work group met 13 times in an eight-month period in 2005 and 2006, forming smaller committees.
The goal of all this, broadly speaking, is to tell property owners what events they can hold on their land and under what circumstances.
That’s the overview — the countless details include hours of operation, the number of attendees it would take to trigger the ordinance, cost, noise and many others, not least of which is the definition of “events.”
This all plays out against a backdrop of rural property owners who like their peace and quiet, and who have made that desire known to supervisors.
Supervisors have to balance their right to tranquility against the rights of other property owners to use their land as they choose.
Landowners aren’t the only people who have a dog in the fight. Wedding planners and photographers, caterers, bed and breakfast establishments and others also have something at risk.
Supervisors began the discussion after lunch and carried it through the dinner hour, after Adam Hill and Jim Patterson urged strongly that they not “kick the can down the road,” as Hill put it.
“There’s a fair amount of anxiety and a certain level of contentiousness,” Hill said.
“This has been under way since 2004, and we need to come to some resolution,” Patterson said.
But it took discipline to stay on track.
“We’re all over the place,” Chairman Frank Mecham complained several times.
Supervisor Bruce Gibson, examining what apparently was a subparagraph of a subsection on growing olives, looked up and asked bemusedly, “We have to legalize olive oil?”
Mecham called it “unfortunate that common sense can’t play into the regulatory aspect ... and just get it done.”
Officially, supervisors did nothing other than provide some “clarity” that in theory will help planners draft amendments to the temporary events ordinance. Planners will digest the suggestions and return to the Board of Supervisors.
Among the several specific points made by supervisors:
• The county should explore how other counties, especially Napa and Sonoma, have handled the problem of regulating events.
• A temporary events permit should be open ended and cannot be transferred with the land.
“We will return to the board with a new report sometime in the next few months with additional information and some new proposals for them to evaluate and provide direction on,” according to Kami Griffin, assistant director of the planning department.