Press Release: West County Residents File Lawsuit to Halt Industrial Development in Coastal Hills

A group of West County residents filed suit Thursday in Sonoma County Superior Court to stop an expansion of the Ratna Ling Meditation Center that would put an industrial scale printing and storage facility in an otherwise rural area in the Cazadero hills.

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The lawsuit contends that the Board of Supervisors’ June approval of the 60,000 square foot printing facility is not consistent with the County’s General Plan and zoning ordinances, and opens the door to other industrial uses in the County’s rural areas. This decision is particularly egregious given the project is located in a remote, coastal woodland area, susceptible to wildfires, with limited access along a one-lane, twisting road, and far from fire services. Fire Chief Michael Singer was unequivocal at the Board of Supervisor’s hearing, stating, “The Timber Cove Fire District does not now have either the equipment or the ability to fight Industrial Fires. The current conditions of the proposed use permit are inadequate to protect the people, property, and natural resources of this District.” The lawsuit asks the court to order Ratna Ling, a Buddhist retreat, to prepare a full environmental impact on the consequences of the project, including a complete analysis of fire danger. The suit states that the project is inconsistent with the General Plan, the Hazard Management Plan, and that the county authorized activities where impacts were not adequately examined.

Ratna Ling Meditation Center received a county permit in 2004 that allows them the Buddhist retreat center, and one accessory printing press with associated equipment in an 18,750 square foot building, limiting workers to 27. The single printing press was to produce a limited number of Tibetan texts annually. Prior to that, the texts were printed in an industrial area of Berkeley with appropriate water, power, infrastructure and safety response systems. Since 2004 – in violation of its permit – the Center has added 5 additional industrial presses capable of printing four tons of paper each day. The added buildings include storage areas for paper, solvents and inks, some of which are highly flammable.

In addition to being a totally inappropriate industrial operation in an area that is not zoned for such use, this intense operation will forever change the character and quality of life of this remote rural setting. “Over one-half of Sonoma County is zoned Resource & Rural Development (RRD). The Board of Supervisors allowed this industrial use through an exception for a charismatic religious group. The county should not allow dangerous industrial development in a rural area that lacks the necessary infrastructure of adequate roads and emergency services.” said CHRP member Ward Anderson.

Coastal Hills Rural Preservation is a group of West Sonoma County, California citizens concerned with preserving the integrity of rural Sonoma County and its resources from inappropriate land use. We invite interested members of the public to join us in this effort.

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Ward Anderson;; 707.884.3949 or Bruce Johnson;; 707.847.3323