On June 7, the Sonoma County Board of Zoning Adjustments, which is part of the planning agency and makes decisions on permit applications and zoning variances, approved a Use Permit for Ratna Ling/Dharma Publishing. The following items were included:
- Approve the conversion of 40,000 sq. ft. of temporary book storage tents to permanent use.
- Press output will be measured by one 24-foot truck a day. Dharma Publishing officials have said this will allow some expansion of the current operation. Press production was limited to 100,000 books per year in 2004 and reached as high as 395,000 books in 2009. Now there is no numeric limit on book production.
- Approved a new six-bedroom dormitory and eight yurt seasonal campground. These structures more than double available worker housing (primarily for the printing operation) and replace illegal worker housing in use since at least 2007.
- Increased the number of residents to 122 from 67. (76 resident workers, 40 guests and 6 seniors in assisted care)
- Increased number of printing plant workers to 94 (from 27)
- Allowed production of non-text items for sale through the onsite Dharma Publishing internet store. These non-text items include yoga cushions, prayer beads, sculpture, gift wrap, greeting cards, posters, etc. Production of non-text items for sale and distribution to the Buddhist community would be confined to 10% of the press building or approximately 2,100 sq. ft. of the 21,000 sq. ft. press building. Residents and guests would be allowed to produce an unlimited number of these items in their cabins for "personal" use.
In approving the new Use Permit, the Board of Zoning Adjustments determined the 40,000 sq. ft. of book storage tents did not have to meet updated fire safety standards because they were approved by PRMD administrative decision (without public notice or hearing) in 2008. The Use Permit Conditions of Approval are contingent on the findings and recommendations for fire safety measures following an onsite inspection of the fabric book storage tents by the Sonoma County Fire Marshall, PRMD Project Planner, Timber Cove Fire Chief and CalFire Battalion Chief. Among the issues to be resolved is whether Dharma Publishing will be allowed to use "high pile" storage methods (12 feet or taller). This concentration of highly combustible paper and books, in a potential warehouse fire, poses a significantly increased threat to rural, volunteer firefighters which requires additional training, equipment and water.
Coastal Hills Rural Preservation - CHRP - has filed an appeal with the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors and is awaiting a hearing date. This continues to be costly endeavor. Your financial support is essential to its success.
· Donation: Make online, tax-deductible donations using PayPal through our sponsor the OWL Foundation - Open Space, Water Protection and Land Use; scroll to Coastal Hills Rural Preservation http://owlfoundation.net/DONATION.htm
The issue remains the same: appropriate land use in a Resources and Rural Development Zone.