PROTECT RURAL SONOMA COUNTY - TELL RETREAT CENTER TO MOVE PRINTING FACILITY TO AN INDUSTRIAL ZONE
THE ISSUE is inappropriate land use.- A Resource and Rural Development Zone (RRD) is designated in the Sonoma County General Plan for timber production, ranching, agriculture, recreation, low density housing and the production, processing and protection of local resources
In 2004, in an RRD zone, a use permit was approved, for Ratna Ling Retreat Center as the primary land use and Dharma Publishing's printing facility, at 18,750 sq. ft., as an ancillary (accessory) land use. A printing press was allowed because some members of the Ratna Ling community make books as a religious practice.
In 2007, the printing facility was expanded to 21,000 sq. ft. In 2008, the printing operation was allowed to add 39,000 sq. ft. of additional book storage structures through a "temporary" zoning permit, without a public hearing. The book printing, storage and distribution facility now totals 60,000 sq. ft.
In 2011 Ratna Ling Retreat Center and Dharma Publishing applied for a new Use Permit to make their "temporary" zoning permit permanent. The new use permit would make the "temporary" book storage structures permanent, remove limits on book production, triple press workers to 97 (from 27), double supply round trip truck trips to 365 (from 182), almost double residents to 122 (from 67), double worker housing and add the manufacture of non-text sacred objects.
Contrary to the purposes of an RRD Zone, the printing operation trucks in all supplies and trucks out all finished products via a 200 mile round trip to the East Bay (Oakland, CA).
This is an issue of concern for all people who live in or love Sonoma County.
If approved, this use permit could set a precedent, now and into the foreseeable future, allowing within RRD zones, new uses unrelated to the purposes of an RRD zone. Once a new use is established, succeeding owners inherit the right to continue that use. For example, if Ratna Ling Retreat Center is sold, a new owner can run a lodge but not a separate printing operation. But, a new owner can use the vacated press building as an accessory structure for a variety of permitted
Coastal Hills Rural Preservation does not oppose Ratna Ling Retreat Center as a place for meditation, reflection, contemplation and healing.
Coastal Hills Rural Preservation applauds Dharma Publishing efforts to make books available to Tibetan refugees. They successfully carried out this mission in an industrial area of Berkeley for 30 years.
With approval of their 2004 Use Permit, Ratna Ling Retreat Center and Dharma Publishing got everything they asked for; 27 resident members of the Ratna Ling community can make books full time, as many as 100,000 books a year to ship to Tibetan refugees. Retreatants (guests) can volunteer in book making during their stay. It is clear by their actions that Dharma Publishing has not been willing to abide by the very limits they established and the County accepted as an ancillary use.
FOR MORE BACKGROUND INFORMATION SCROLL TO THE BOTTOM.
HOW YOU CAN HELP:
1. ATTEND THE BOARD of ZONING ADJUSTMENTS HEARING
Thursday, April 5, 2012 at 1:00 p.m.
Permit and Resource Management Department
2550 Ventura Avenue
Santa Rosa, CA 95403
2. DONATE TO CHRP (Coastal Hills Rural Preservation): You can make a tax-deductible online donation through our 501(c)3 sponsor the OWL Foundation. Click on this link and the CHRP button to donate using Paypal:
CHRP needs your financial help. Challenging the Sonoma County permitting process for Ratna Ling Retreat Center has been a 3 year long, complicated, daunting and expensive effort. We must hire a lawyer and experts to present our best case.
3. STAY INFORMED: For updates, please visit this site often.
4. TO CONTACT: COASTAL HILLS RURAL PRESERVATION email:
BACKGROUND: Ratna Ling Retreat Center and Dharma Publishing are located in the heart of the rugged, coastal ridges of northwest Sonoma County, CA, in a Resource and Rural Development Zone.
Ratna Ling Retreat Center and Dharma Publishing are owned by the Tibetan Nyingma Meditation Center in Berkeley, CA. Dharma Publishing is a non-profit, religious press, run by volunteers and operated successfully for 30 years in an industrial area of Berkeley, CA.
Dharma Publishing promotes itself as the "biggest publisher of Tibetan Buddhist texts in the world", mainly through printing and distributing Tibetan texts for free to Tibetan refugees. These texts are shipped, through the Port of Oakland to India. By their own estimation Dharma Publishing annually produces thousands of Tibetan books, sacred art, prayer wheels, and books in English about Tibetan Buddhism. (395,000 Tibetan books in 2009)
In 2004, Ratna Ling Retreat Center obtained a Use Permit, in Sonoma County, for a Retreat Center as the primary use, and a printing facility to be operated only as an ancillary use. The printing operation was described as a 18,750 sq. ft. building (including storage), with 27 workers operating one press 15 hours a day and producing 100,000 books a year . County Planning Staff advised the governing Board of Zoning Adjustments that, “The press facility would not be allowed if it is not ancillary to the primary use [the retreat center].” Planning further defined ancillary (accessory) use as, “An accessory use must be incidental to the primary use and must not significantly change the character, appearance, or operation of the principal use of the building or property.” In this case the primary use is the retreat center.
In a November 2006 letter, the Deputy Director of Planning wrote Ratna Ling "Your use permit allows the printing press and 18,000 sf of storage space, which we consider about the limit of what is reasonable for a accessory use."
In June 2007, six months after receiving this letter, Dharma Publishing relocated their entire printing operation (six presses) from an industrial area of Berkeley, CA to Ratna Ling Retreat Center and subsequently added 2,000 sq. ft. to the press building.
In 2008 Dharma Publishing obtained a "temporary" 3 year zoning permit to add 39,000 sq. ft. of book storage "tents". These "tents" are industrial grade, climate controlled, fabric, storage structures designed to last many years and may be replaced by permanent structures. The 21,000 sq. ft. press building and 39,000 sq. ft. of book storage now make up a 60,000 sq. ft., industrial scale, book printing, storage and distribution facility at Ratna Ling Retreat Center.
In 2010, 170 local residents filed a Petition and a Complaint of Permit Violations with Sonoma County Planning and Code Enforcement against Ratna Ling Retreat Center and Dharma Publishing. Ratna Ling was found to have unpermitted worker housing e.g. 10 yurts, 5 trailers, 3 cabins, toilet and shower facilities, which they were required to remove. Dharma Publishing was found to be exceeding conditions of use including producing substantially more than 100,000 books a year.
Now, in 2012, Ratna Ling has applied for an New Use Permit to:
§ Make permanent 39,000 sq.ft. of book storage structures.
§ Retain five printing presses and associated production equipment added to the one press operation approved in 2004.
§ Remove the present production limit of 100,000 books a year, and make the number of Press Supply Truck trips a year the only limit on production.
§ Double the number of Press Supply Truck trips to 365 (from 182)
§ Increase workers in the Press Building to 94 (from 27).
§ Construct a new dormitory for 12 and a “seasonal” campground for 24 workers.
§ Increase resident volunteer/workers to 76 (from 27)
§ Increase total residents to 122 (from 67). (This figure includes 40 retreatants and 6 Buddhist senior care residents )
We ask you to join Coastal Hills Rural Preservation in preserving the rural nature of the coastal hills. In light of the magnitude of the current printing operation and the request for further expansion that is not in keeping with the guidelines of the Sonoma County General Plan,
PLEASE ASK THE SONOMA COUNTY BOARD OF ZONING ADJUSTMENTS TO DENY USE PERMIT PLP08-0021, AND REQUIRE RATNA LING RETREAT CENTER TO MOVE THE DHARMA PUBLISHING PRINTING FACILITY TO LAND ZONED FOR INDUSTRIAL USE. (The Retreat Center can continue to operate as permitted under the terms of their 2004 Use Permit UPE04-0032.)