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'Stop-work' order on Guerneville-area timber conversion

Sonoma County code enforcement officials are scheduled Monday to inspect a 10-acre timberland conversion project on property near Pocket Canyon, just east of Guerneville, owned by winemaker Paul Hobbs.

Hobbs also has been clearing trees on a highly visible parcel near the his winery on Gravenstein Highway at Graton Road, property he obtained in a civil suit against political activist John Jenkel. However, county officials say Hobbs acquired the necessary permits for that work.

Although Hobbs obtained a timberland conversion permit from the state Department of Forestry and Fire Protection for the Pocket Canyon property, he did not meet additional conditions of that permit, specifically obtaining a use permit and grading permit from the county, county officials said. County officials said they had issued a "stop-work" order on the site pending the inspection Monday.

"We are going to be inspecting the site on Monday to see if the work that has been done amounts to a violation of county ordinance," said David Hardy, supervising planner for the Sonoma County Permit & Resource Management Department.

Hardy said that under the county's timber conversion ordinance of 2006, a use permit is required whenever timberland switched to agricultural uses such as vineyards. Hardy said a code enforcement team will try to determine if any of the work constitutes grading, which has not been approved.

Hobbs said he has applied for a county use permit and that "absolutely no grading" work has been done at the site, nor will any work be done until the necessary permits are obtained.

"We're not moving a finger until we get that permit," he said.

Hardy said his plans are to plant between 8.5 and 10 acres of vineyards on the Pocket Canyon property. He said he will irrigate the vineyards using a reservoir that is filled from runoff and that no well water will be used.

On Monday, Hobbs' property will also be inspected by officials from Calfire and North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board.


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