Help Save the Coastal Hills of Sonoma - Appeal Court Date August 3rd, 2016 in SF

Coastal Hills Rural Preservation (CHRP) is a local citizens group formed to protect our rural coastal hills. CHRP is suing Sonoma County over its approval of a controversial Master Use Permit that establishes a 60,000 square foot industrial printing and warehouse facility on a coastal ridge in one of the most remote and fire prone corners of Sonoma County.

Industrial Park or rural retreat center?

Sonoma County has permitted this printing and warehousing as an “accessory use” to a religious retreat center by explaining that printing books is “integral to their religious practice”. In so doing, Sonoma County has given exclusive preference to a specific religious organization. This clearly violates the Establishment Clause of the Constitution that prohibits the government from giving preference to any one religion.

The zoning for this project is Rural and Resource Development (RRD). In general such zoning protects lands for resource and agricultural production and allows for “very low density” occupancy (normally one or two families per parcel). In this case Sonoma County has granted permits for 160,000 square feet of buildings and occupancy of 122 people on a single rural 120-acre parcel. The contested permit also allows new uses of commercial printing, industrial warehousing, commercial manufacturing, and a shipping and handling facility.

Manufacturing and warehousing belong in industrial zones where there is infrastructure to safely accommodate such uses. The local Timber Cove Fire Protection District warned Sonoma County of unmitigated industrial fire risks and asked the county not to approve the project. The County has ignored the Fire Protection District and has ignored public safety by approving the project without an Environmental Impact Report.

Industrial park or religious practice?

There are three important issues before State Court of Appeals. First, giving exclusive preference to a specific religious group is clearly unconstitutional. Second, Sonoma County’s General Plan and Zoning Codes do not permit industrial manufacturing and warehousing in rural RRD zones for good reason. Third, this permit fails to comply with the California Environmental Quality Act that requires an Environmental Impact Report for new large projects with significant public health and safety risks. We are asking the Court to find Sonoma County’s approval of this permit unconstitutional, non-compliant with it’s own General Plan and zoning codes, and in violation of the California Environmental Quality Act.

The Court of Appeal in San Francisco will hear oral arguments
August 3, 2016 at 9:00 am.

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Coastal Hills Rural Preservation (CHRP) is a grassroots coalition of Sonoma County residents. We are working to protect rural land and the natural beauty of Sonoma County. Industrial manufacturing and warehousing on a remote and pristine coastal ridge is indefensible. After 8 years of discussions, negotiations, petitions, code enforcement complaints, hearings and appeals CHRP is now taking Sonoma County to court for unconstitutionally granting exclusive preference to specific religious organization and for violating zoning codes and the California Environmental Quality Act.


CHRP’s resources are citizens’ donations along with the energy, passion, expertise and determination of many individuals. This suit is our final legal recourse. The last eight years of hearings, appeals and legal challenges has been costly but we have prevailed thanks to all of your donations.


Taking our case to the State Court of Appeal has also been costly. CHRP still has one final $10,000 dollar payment for legal services due before the August 3 court date.


We need your help to protect rural land. Industrial manufacturing and warehousing belong in industrial zones not on rural land. Our county government must apply the law equally to all. Our County must be required to regulate industrial printing and warehousing as industrial land use. Every permit applicant should meet the same standards. Our County should not become entangled in the argument that industrial printing and warehousing is a religious practice and that special zoning standards apply. Our County should be guided the Establishment clause of the Constitutions that prohibits giving special preference to any religion and we are asking the Court to rule on this important issue.


Please join our effort to protect rural land and to defend an important Constitutional principal at the same time.


We need your help now, Coastal Hills Rural Preservation





Send a check to North Coast Institute

PO Box 253

Gualala, CA 95445

Donations by mail to NCI are tax deductible and preferable because 100% goes to CHRP.




Make an on-line tax-deductible donation, through our 501(c)(3) sponsor the O.W.L. Foundation. Use this link to their website and scroll down the page to "Coastal Hills Rural Preservation."


Thank you for your generosity!

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  • published this page 2016-07-18 18:17:59 -0700