of Citizens for Lafferty Ranch and a Regional Park
It looks like Peter Pfendler has a new ally in his effort to keep Lafferty off-limits to the people of Petaluma. Now that the City's independent environmental consultants have debunked the myth of a hazardous, ecologically fragile Lafferty Ranch, park opponents appeared to have influenced Sonoma County bureaucrats to throw technicalities into the project's path.
Here's the evidence: on June 19th, 1997, the County Permit and Resource Management Office wrote our environmental consultant, stating "the County believes that a park on Lafferty Ranch is consistent with the Sonoma County General Plan, as per our October 1995 letter." Basically, for 2 years they have said a park on Lafferty is okay.
Two months after the June letter, another letter from that office expressed a new position. In a breathtaking display of Alice in Wonderland logic, it claimed that because our Lafferty Park wouldn't (and really shouldn't) have improvements like playgrounds and picnic tables, it wouldn't be a "park" but rather merely a "trail", and therefore would be inconsistent with the General Plan.
Never mind the fact that people in this county place a high value on hiking in local natural areas, as expressed through public opinion polls, at public workshops, and through our City Council's unanimous adoption of the Lafferty Park ordinance.
The letter goes on to raise a host of other issues. City official's told the Lafferty Access Committee that this level of scrutiny from the County is unprecedented. Inside sources say the County's new behavior is politically motivated.
This response from the County would be laughable if it could be ignored. Unfortunately, it may give Pfendler's legal team more ammunition to delay the project. They already have forced the City to pay for a full Environmental Impact Review, and have pledged to challenge the City's right of access.
It's outrageous that County employees now seem to be working on behalf of a few private landowners. If you don't like it, contact your County Supervisor Jim Harberson, or members of the Petaluma City Council.