Sebastopol, California – Attorneys for Paul Hobbs Winery filed a legal motion this week to dismiss a lawsuit brought by a group that is trying to overturn Sonoma County’s important and comprehensive vineyard regulations.
The motion seeks to halt a suit filed in late November by an activist group called the Watertrough Children’s Alliance (WCA). The WCA suit claims that County permits issued to Hobbs for re-planting on his 48-acre Watertrough Road property should be subject to California’s Environmental Quality Act regulations.
The legal filing points out the WCA suit stands to do more environmental harm than good. If the suit were to succeed, it would activate a “poison pill provision” in the Sonoma County law that requires environmental sensitivity in vineyard conversion and development, which automatically would make it inoperative. By overturning the Sonoma County Grading, Drainage and Vineyard and Orchard Site Development Ordinance, known as VESCO, the WCA suit stands to erase the County’s clearly defined standards for protecting water, soil, and air.
“Paul Hobbs Winery is dedicated to upholding the laws and regulations that protect the environment in our County while allowing our agricultural activities to thrive,” said Christopher O’Gorman, spokesman for the winery. “If the WCA lawsuit were somehow successful, it would erase environmental guidelines that have ensured responsible vineyard creation and management for more than a decade. No one wants to open the floodgates to irresponsible developers.”
The motion to dismiss also points out the legal weaknesses of the WCA suit, noting that a similar lawsuit was already rejected by the Sonoma County Superior Court in a March 2011 ruling.
“This matter has already been decided,” noted Hobbs winery legal counsel John Holdredge. “This misguided lawsuit is trying to put the personal goals of a few people ahead of the environmental protections that many good people worked hard to achieve, and which this entire County deserves. It’s unfortunate that the WCA is doing so despite knowing full well the damage they can cause by their actions.”
Hobbs, who utilizes sustainable practices in his vineyards, strongly supports VESCO, and ultimately wants what’s best for agriculture, the environment, and its resident neighbors.