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October 2001

County Approves Shakespeare, Stinson Water Vetos

By Louis Nuyens

Following close on the heels of favorable County approvals, Shakespeare at Stinson (SaS) expansion plans were dealt a set-back by the Stinson Beach County Water District (SBCWD).

On 12 September 2001, closely following the lead of West Marin Supervisor Kinsey, the Marin County Board of Supervisors (BoS) approved, in concept, elements of a conditional use permit for SaS (the language of which is being drafted for final approval on 25 September), including building expansions, multiple new buildings (green room, two storage rooms, box office, concession office, dressing room), 2-4 additional portable toilets, a significantly enlarged stage, an expanded lighting booth, increased patronage, and year-round use of the site (where only temporary structures and seasonal use had been allowed).

However, the BoS stipulated that "permitted uses may only be vested if the [SBCWD] requirements are satisfactorily met," essentially passing the buck of responsibility.

The provisions approved in concept by the Supervisors would violate SBCWD regulations and codes. Final BoS approval would essentially ask the SBCWD to violate its own regulations and codes.

SBCWD General Manager Richard Dinges states that the County excluded district comments and recommendations from their process: "Subsequently, the County ended up permitting items which District Code does not allow."

BoS and SBCWD jurisdictions overlap, but are somewhat different. From the General Manager's report of 18 September 2001, "The current application seeks to continue the use of six chemical toilets add another two chemical toilets (for a total of 8), increase the allowable number of attendees, increase the number of shows, add additional uses for the theatre (including an acting school), and eliminate the seasonal nature of the facility. The applicant proposes these changes without providing permanent structures."

SBCWD regulations prohibit use of chemical toilets on a permanent basis-if there are permanent structures on the property, they must be served by an adequate, in-ground septic system.

Temporary structures are defined as being on wheels, and removable at the end of the season, in October, along with the chemical toilets. All else are considered permanent structures and must meet wastewater, building, and fire codes. The current, illegally constructed "temporary" storage, dressing room, concessions and box office buildings do not meet any of these criteria and the SBCWD will demand that they be removed from the property.

In attendance was new Stinson Fire Chief Ken Stevens, who was asked by the District to comment on the existing "temporary" structures. SaS structures do not meet the SBCWD definition of temporary since they are on piers, rather than capable of being wheeled out at the end of the season. Chief Stevens noted that there are 3 buildings, with a total of 1,368 square feet, none of which meet local, building, or fire codes.

On Friday, 21 September, 15 minutes before office closing, SaS faxed a request for a continuance to the SBCWD office, in an attempt to delay SBCWD decisions on the SaS variance requests. SBCWD denied the last minute continuance, saying that they saw no reason to change a publicly noticed meeting, where the applicant had provided no additional information to alter the Manager's staff report. Complying with the continuance request without the request being on the pre-published meeting agenda might also have constituted a Brown Act violation.

SBCWD Directors described "misrepresentations, year after year [in the documents presented by SaS representatives]," and said that the practice must cease. The current variance application was found to contain multiple misstatements-statements of fact. The board instructed SBCWD staff to reject any future variance proposal containing misrepresentation of fact, and to keep the filing fee.

As the public hearing on the SaS variance continued, District Director Elizabeth Sapanai, recounted a 6-year history of variance requests by the theater company, and stated that "Éperhaps, if Shakespeare at Stinson is not a viable business [within the regulations applied to it by the SBCWD], then it should be modified until it is."

During the hearing, it also came out that SaS had placed a 7th, unpermitted, chemical toilet about 20 feet from Eskoot Creek; the SBCWD responded by immediately requiring its removal. Protection of the Streamside Conservation Area has been the critical issue, and the main reason why the Steelhead Group, composed of representatives of several environmental organizations, appealed the original County Use Permit.

The final SBCWD vote on the SaS variance request for increasing patrons, year-round operation, extra toilets, and various "quasi-permanent" buildings, was a unanimous denial. The SBCWD upheld the current seasonal, limited scope use permit. The directors also instructed their General Manager to send a notice to the owner to remove the existing illegal buildings and the illegal 7th chemical toilet, or be found out of compliance with their use permit.

Projected County approvals, after 3 months of negotiations, have virtually evaporated due to lack of consideration for SBCWD regulations and codes. Much time and effort by the applicants, appellants and Water District and County staff might have been avoided had the County taken a more coordinated approach during initial planning stages.

 

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