Petaluma City Council rejects neighbors' appeal in warehouse district noise complaints

The Petaluma City Council late Monday rebuffed residents of a mixed-use neighborhood of historic warehouses along the Petaluma River who were seeking stricter regulation of a nearby creamery and ice cream maker they say is too noisy.

Several neighbors in the Celsius 44 complex along First Street appealed a Planning Commission approval in February of permit changes for artisan cheese producer Cowgirl Creamery and its tenant, Three Twins Ice Cream.

Following a lengthy public hearing, the council sided with the creamery, voting 5-0 to deny the neighbors' appeal. Mike Healy was absent and Tiffany Renee recused herself because she lives in the affected condos.

Although neighbors sought greater oversight of both businesses in relation to noise, traffic, parking, potential expansion and overall environmental impacts, City Attorney Eric Danly advised council members that the decision before them was more focused.

Cowgirl Creamery has been at the site for seven years. The condos were built in 2008.

Most businesses and residents in the Foundry Wharf area live in harmony, enjoying the lively, diverse neighborhood.

But some neighbors said noise became a problem when Three Twins began leasing space from the creamery in early 2010.

One of the major objections – noise emanating mostly from equipment owned by Three Twins – wasn't before the council, he said. Sound readings showed the noise has been reduced to levels that fall below the city's decibel limits.

Other complaints, including regarding the installation of a 4,500-gallon whey storage tank without permits, were determined in favor of Cowgirl Creamery. The storage tank, cheesemaker Eric Patterson said, allows them to store their waste before it's taken to an organic pig farm to be used for the animals' feed.

Many of those who spoke in support of the creamery urged the council to support a local business that employs more than two dozen Petaluma residents and continues the city's long agricultural heritage.

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