Yolo County residents opposed to a planned rural event center near the town of Esparto will take their case to the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.
The event center — approved by the Yolo County Planning Commission in May — would host up to 12 events a year between May and October at FreeHeart Farm, located on County Road 22 about two miles southwest of Esparto. Events would include everything from weddings and corporate retreats to wine-tastings, fundraisers and community gatherings.
A number of residents who live near or adjacent to the location had urged the Planning Commission to deny a use permit for the event center, citing the noise and increased traffic that would ensue.
But the commission unanimously approved the permit after making several modifications, including limiting events to a maximum of 150 guests with parking restricted to no more than 100 cars and noise levels to 75 decibels. Noise levels would be monitored by FreeHeart Farm staff, who would record sound levels for the first three events and provide the data to neighbors and the county.
But those modifications did not satisfy some neighbors, who appealed the commission’s decision to the Board of Supervisors.
FreeHeart Farm owners Larry and Lynn Rolston, who also operate a large almond orchard on their 37-acre property, told commissioners in May that they remain sensitive to neighbors’ concerns and will work with them going forward.
“We have met with our neighbors and taken very, very seriously any complaint that has come to us (and) intend to continue doing that,” Lynn Rolston said. “Our intent is to be non-intrusive.”
She said guests will be strongly encouraged to carpool or use small buses to limit traffic and also will be directed to approach the event center on roads other than County Road 22.
The impact of large events that narrow, winding road was a big concern of neighbors back in May.
Katy Vigil McClanahan told planning commissioners that even without an increase in traffic, speeding along the road endangers her family and others who frequently walk along the road.
She described drivers taking corners too fast and smashing into trees or swerving off the road and said, “adding 100-plus new drivers to the road every weekend is a recipe for more such accidents, particularly if alcohol is involved.”
As for the noise issue, neighbor Brian Paddock said the event center would be within hearing distance of 21 rural homes, adding, “I don’t care what my neighbors do, but I do care when it impacts me and my family.”
County staff, meanwhile, will urge supervisors to approve the permit, saying the issues raised on appeal “do not have merit.”
The use permit is consistent with General Plan policies and county code, staff said, and permits have been issued for similar event centers in recent years, including the Taber Ranch in the Capay Valley, the Park Winters bed-and-breakfast near Madison and the Historic Oakdale Ranch near Esparto.
Opponents, however, say those event centers differ from the FreeHeart Farm proposal, which they say has more neighbors living within 3,000 feet. They also contend that California Environmental Quality Act requirements have not been met and question FreeHeart Farm owners’ claim that the event center would provide a form of agri-tourism.
The board is scheduled to take up the issue at 10 a.m. Tuesday in its chambers at the County Administration Building, 625 Court St. in Woodland.
— Reach Anne Ternus-Bellamy at email@example.com or 530-747-8051. Follow her on Twitter at @ATernusBellamy