Posted on December 31, 2013 By Mina

The year that was: big West County changes in 2013

Sonoma West Times & News

by David Abbott Sonoma West Editor

…After three months in limbo, work on Paul Hobbs’ controversial orchard-to-vineyard conversion on Watertrough Road resumed when county officials lifted the stop work order that was put in place in the wake of a fluke June rainstorm that exposed excessive vegetation removal on the 48-acre site.

“I met with Hobbs and we talked about going forward,” Sonoma County Agricultural Commissioner Tony Linegar said. “There are a lot of concerns and we asked him to be very sensitive to that.”

…Winemaker Paul Hobbs came under fire again, in the form of a lawsuit filed against him and Sonoma County by a local group that claims his permit to convert an apple orchard to winegrapes was issued in violation of California environmental laws.

The Watertrough Children’s Alliance, comprised of parents of children from the THUSD and local activists, claims that the conversion should not have been approved by the Agricultural Commissioners Office and should have been subject to California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) rules.

“It’s unusually simple,” Paul V. Carroll, the attorney representing the group, said. “They should have done CEQA. The nature (of the conversion) is discretionary rather than ministerial. I’ve reviewed the ordinance very carefully.”