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September 2001

Shakespeare vs. Steelheads Update

By Louis Nuyens

Through extensive negotiations between the Steelhead Group-a collaboration of several environmental organizations (Tomales Bay Association; Environmental Action Committee of West Marin; Sierra Club-Marin; Tomales BayKeeper, SPAWN; Bolinas Lagoon Watershed Team ; Stinson Beach Village Assn.)-and the County of Marin, its planning staff, the Stinson Beach County Water District, and Shakespeare at Stinson, it appears that Shakespeare at Stinson has agreed to remove the structures that were infringing on the mandatory 100 foot streamside set-back area and to reduce impacts on the creek.

Completion of the public hearing on the matter before the Marin County Board of Supervisors, has been postponed until September 11; the Supervisors voting to extend the temporary use permit for an additional three weeks. The response by the Board of Supervisors will be crucial in either supporting or undermining the terms of the current agreement. In the meantime, the effort is ongoing to find a plan that will be acceptable to oversight agencies and the Steelhead appellants while keeping Shakespeare at Stinson in business at a size reduced from some of its recent proposals.

Shakespeare at Stinson currently uses about 1,400 square feet on a 7,500 sq.-ft. plot that is a subset of a 15,500 sq.-ft. parcel, the remainder of which is at full build-out. Site plans submitted during the negotiations have varied wildly, from full build-out of the parcel, with thousands of added square feet of buildings and over 200 patrons, to a more recent plan for about 155 persons on site, including staff and actors.

Proposed additions to the Shakespeare at Stinson site have included up to 4,200 sq.-ft. of buildings, tripling the current allowed use. Some of these buildings are proposed as "temporary" structures to be built over septic leach lines, which would require an awkward variance from the Stinson Beach County Water District, which administers the site's septic and water use permits. Such a variance would set a precedent that could be exploited by other projects in the future, as well as being potentially damaging to the site's septic system, which is shared by multiple tenants on the property, including the town Library.

The September 11, Board of Supervisors' hearing on this matter will set the stage for any further activity on the Streamside Conservation Area (SCA) issue. Alternatives for the applicant or the appellants, if dissatisfied with the Board of Supervisors decision on the use permit, include appeal to the Coastal Commission, and, ultimately, litigation under the Coastal Act.

There are aspects of the planned use of the site that remain illegal (under the Coastal Act), such as encroachment into a 50 ft riparian area, and a few temporary, seasonal structures in the 100 ft, SCA and other aspects that may be viewed as ill-advised.

Battle over encroachment into SCAs by developments is not new. Such contests are likely to flare up intermittently-in the form of infringements by project proponents and actions such as those by the Steelhead Group-so long the County, its project planners, and the other oversight agencies, fail to consistently enforce related local, State and Federal laws.

Although it took strong advocacy and a willingness to pursue legal action by the Steelhead Group to gain the attention of the County with regard to protection of the SCA on the Shakespeare at Stinson site, it is the duty of the County, and other agencies, to ensure that all aspects of any proposed project are legal, and appropriate in terms of public and environmental health and safety, regardless of public sentiment or political pressure.

Other proposed projects that have already proposed plans that would violate the SCA and/or riparian setbacks include the Point Reyes EAH Housing Project, Olema Ranch Campgrounds, Point Reyes Seashore Lodge, and Olema Farmhouse Restaurant.

 

 

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