Judge won't hear dispute on fireworks

UKIAH -- A Mendocino County judge Friday declined to intervene in a brouhaha between Gualala fireworks supporters and the state Coastal Commission.

At issue is whether the fireworks display, established two years ago, has a negative effect on birds nesting on Gualala Point Island about 100 yards offshore of the Sea Ranch development. The issue has split Gualala, a small coastal community straddling the Sonoma-Mendocino county line.

On Friday in Ukiah, Superior Court Judge Leonard LaCasse said the Gualala Festivals Committee first must take the issue up with the state commission at its June 11 meeting in Santa Rosa. On the agenda is a staff recommendation that commissioners issue a cease-and-desist order to the Gualala group.

If the commission issues the order, then the group could return to Superior Court and ask for an injunction.

Gualala Festivals spokesman Martin Sayegh couldn't be reached Friday for comment on the court decision. But Sayegh and other fireworks supporters have indicated they will appeal any state action halting the fireworks display.

The Gualala group, which is being represented by the Pacific Legal Foundation of Sacramento, has refused to apply for a Coastal Commission permit, contending the agency doesn't have authority in the matter.

Banning fireworks displays is an unusual step for the state commission, but it has been done in Morro Bay and at a site in Monterey County.

Coastal Commission staff contend they have no choice but to seek the cease-and-desist order because the Gualala committee refuses to file an application for a state permit.

Paul Beard, an attorney for the Pacific Legal Foundation, has argued that state staff are "overreaching."

You can reach Staff Writer Mike Geniella at 462-6470 or mgeniella@pressdemocrat.com.

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