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Will the City be Able to Afford Dutra Suit?

The City Council voted 6-1 to continue with the lawsuit to prevent Dutra from building their asphalt plant. But is there a limit to how far they will go?

Last Monday the heard over 20 residents weigh in on continuing the lawsuit against the Dutra Group's proposed asphalt plant at Haystack Landing.

In the closed session that followed, against the County of Sonoma, which despite local objections. Only Councilman Chris Albertson voted no, citing the unknown costs of continued legal action.

The council's agreement vote was given a boost by citizens groups that pledged $10,000 toward the legal fees, estimated at one point to run about $18,000.

But an article in today's Press Democrat points out that the legal fees are far from known, and may exceed that number by a factor of ten - up to $200,000, according to Santa Rosa attorney Rachel Stevenson. (, an outspoken opponent of the plant, has been quick to question the figures, and has fired off objections to the Press Democrat, Patch and possibly others about them.)

Is there a point at which the City Council's budget for the lawsuit will run out? How about Petalumans - will they reach the end of their own rope in opposing the project? Will the "deep pockets" of the Dutra Group eventually prevail?

NOTE: The poll attached to this story has been removed, as its results reflect more respondents than readers.

Olivia January 28, 2012 at 08:19 PM
Just to refresh your memory, "Roy": As you or a prospective visitor approaches the Exit 101 via Petaluma Blvd. South: Residents and visitors will be assaulted with the sight and nauseating smell of twin, 62-foot, asphalt-producing towers. "Roll up the windows, honey, and keep driving! Let's stop somewhere else for lunch, dinner, shopping, hotel, etc. Guess we don't want to buy or rent a home here, after all."
Roy Bean January 28, 2012 at 08:51 PM
If those for and against can all vote an equal number of times, is Joan's complaint that her side did not vote enough or the opposing side voted to much? If the poll supported Joan and Bookworm's opinion would they still complain that one voted multiple times and it's fraud?? . Was this an opinion poll??
Roy Bean January 28, 2012 at 08:57 PM
jmtc, Don't be naive. There is always an overly high cost when any city brings a lawsuit. A government, no matter how big or small never does anything below or at the original estimate.
Go Occupy! January 28, 2012 at 11:48 PM
Hey, at least you got the name right this time, last time you called it a "horse & pony" show. Like was mentioned , if you like the uber-pro business city life....move. Or move to the 880 Oakland corridor "pro business city" life. Live it up. Maybe you and Ptown can share a loft overlooking the Nimitz. Shollenberger is an incredibly special place no matter how many stupid comments are made like yours against it. If you fail to understand the uniqueness of that park, I feel empathy towards you and the fact that you have not evolved as a human. And, those of you that keep bellyaching about the cost of the appeal and how we can't afford it, maybe this can frame it for you: divided up, how much will this appeal cost you directly, $0.89 cents, $2.87, $7.46 (more/less) a person? You would support ruining not only Shollenberger, but the entire town of Petaluma for the cost a hamburger meal at McDonalds?
Bookworm January 28, 2012 at 11:56 PM
Roy, I grew up on the East Coast in New York City. Had relatives in New Jersey. By the time I left NYC, I had had enough of pollution and crowding. When I worked in an office in downtown Manhattan, if I wiped my face with a tissue at the end of the day, it came up grey. Frankly, I wouldn't care if California was 50th in "business friendly" if business friendly means pollution friendly, crowding friendly, lack of public services friendly, crappy working conditions friendly. It was UNIONS that gave you the weekend, the 8 hour work day, etc. Maybe Beijing would make you happy. Not me. I like to breathe.
Go Occupy! January 29, 2012 at 12:00 AM
OK, now I'm ticked, I was just getting ready to set my robo-vote app to 1,600 votes on another fake Patch poll (why keep using that flawed poll?) and now it is down? Boy, talk about late to the party. Also, for Patch to just regurgitate the PD article is a huge disservice to it's readers. At a glance, that PD article was a hit piece against the decision to appeal, plain and simple. Here's a thought, take this article down, actually write a fresh article and cite that PD article as a source for comparison, but don't just auto-reprint PD content without fact checking.
Olivia January 29, 2012 at 12:20 AM
http://www.mahalo.com/judge-roy-bean/ Figures.
Olivia January 29, 2012 at 12:23 AM
Guess you and AOL.com got your disired reaction. I won't be posting anything again until the authentic writer and editor returns from her vacation.
Ptown January 29, 2012 at 01:20 AM
All poor Christian asked was if their should be a cap on what the city spends on the appeal. Man, regular patch posters sure are crybabies, and go way off topic too often.
Bookworm January 29, 2012 at 02:29 AM
And some people have to call names (crybabies) which adds nothing to the discussion but rudeness.
Ptown January 29, 2012 at 03:08 AM
Like I said. On topic, yes a broke city should stop using taxpayers at a certain point.
Go Occupy! January 29, 2012 at 03:26 AM
Like I said. On topic, worst case scenario from the sensationalist propaganda Press Democrat article is that each citizen would have to cough up, at the most, say $4 a person to fight this toxic stinkpot, but probably a lot less. More like under a dollar. You think we are broke now? Wait and see what happens if this travesty somehow gets built. We won't get any tax revenue from it and it will absolutely ruin the goodwill the town has built up regarding tourism. The city will have to close Shollenberger to save itself from the string of airborne toxin lawsuits that will start on day one from innocent people that just went to use the park. Will that fill your dark, black heartless soul with cheer or are you one of those paid posting trolls that's just in this for the money??
Patch fails again January 29, 2012 at 03:33 AM
Very sad. What once made Petaluma Patch attractive to readers – independent, actual journalism – has devolved into simply parroting errors from other local trades. Why don't you do your own reporting or simply call it a day. Do your homework. Investigate. Question. Challenge obvious assertions that have no weight. Here you quote a source that admits they have no idea about the actual costs to create a charged story alleging the private donations will not be adequate. Were you in the council when the city attorney stated the estimated costs? Do you have any idea how many local residents and businesses have committed most of the costs thus far and intend to continue? And did you even bother to put these relatively small costs in perspective against the far larger costs to Petaluma should this project proceed? Unbelievable. I've witnessed countless typos, sloppy reporting, improper word use, and a variety of errors that have reduced the credibility of this publication. But this is beyond the pale. You had (and perhaps still have) an opportunity to do better than the PD. Do your own research. Contact the city yourself. Contact the lawyer representing the city yourself. Stop the intellectual laziness. If you can't cover a story properly, don't cover it. Absolutely disgusting. If you want to talk about what is wasting City dollars, place the blame on the County for approving this absurd project that flies in the face of their own General Plan.
Patch fails again January 29, 2012 at 03:56 AM
"But please, I didn't report anything except the Press Democrat's story." Are you kidding me? What you really mean is "All I did was copy some unsupported innuendos from another publication without getting another source". What's the point of your story then? If you are simply copying and pasting from another source – without doing your own research – what's the point? It would have been very easy to contact the City Manager and the legal team handling the appeal to arrive at a more realistic number. There is zero evidence that the costs for this type of appeal will come anywhere close to the top end number mentioned in the PD. If you were a real journalist, or had any sense of skepticism, you would have questioned this immediately since even the PD states that the source is not familiar with this specific or even type of case. Go back to college Christian...somewhere along the way you missed Critical Thinking 101. Sloppy and irresponsible reporting will destroy this once promising alternative to the PD and Argus.
Go Occupy! January 29, 2012 at 04:09 AM
What don't you people get when you write drivel like this? The City of Petaluma will not get ANY of the tax money collected; it will all go to the county. Where is your magic money going to come from, the 8 to 10 displaced jobs this stinkpot offers? Right.
Patrick M. January 29, 2012 at 04:55 AM
Hello, David? Still looking for an answer. If the amount is so trivial, why don't you cover all the city's cost?
Patrick M. January 30, 2012 at 12:13 AM
Hello, David? Still looking for an answer. If the amount is so trivial, why don't you cover all the city's cost?
Go Occupy! January 30, 2012 at 12:32 AM
What an idiotic thing to say.
Go Occupy! January 30, 2012 at 12:32 AM
What an idiotic thing to say.
Ptown January 30, 2012 at 01:27 AM
Because there truly is no known ceiling for the cost of the appeal or Keller and co would of just told Petaluma to stay on the case and told the city no money would be needed from the taxpayers
Go Occupy! January 30, 2012 at 01:59 AM
More idiotic comments. Deal with reality; the city has voted to pursue the appeal. Private groups will help by raising money all they can and you know who wins when we win the appeal? That's right, the city of Petaluma, because they will get back what they have spent and the community of Petaluma will keep their wonderful park unblemished and safe to use for current and upcoming generations. It's like everyone else in the city sees the high value of keeping this toxic stinkpot from being built except for a few paid Dutra trolls on the Patchboard.
Olivia January 30, 2012 at 02:38 AM
Would "have", Ptown.
Patrick M. January 30, 2012 at 04:39 PM
I have asked a simple question, so if that makes me idiotic then so be it. Please David, appease a simple idiot by answering a simple question; If the amount is trivial anyway, why not cover the all the city costs?
Go Occupy! January 30, 2012 at 04:51 PM
Why would you direct your ire at one person Patrick M. when there are thousands and thousands of citizens in Petaluma who don't want this toxic stinkpot and many hundreds that have donated money for the appeal? It's as if you didn't read (or understand) any of what's going on.
Olivia January 30, 2012 at 05:40 PM
Patrick M. sounds like the typical poster on the Petaluma 360 Forums, "Go". You just have to ignore them because they behave and write like 4 year-olds. No offense to the kiddies. Replying to them will only make you feel like you are banging your head against a wall—an extremely dense wall.
Joan Bunn January 30, 2012 at 05:48 PM
Not only is Patrick M. here on these forums, he is also writing the same comments on Petaluma360 and Watch Sonoma County. Patrick, how about you identify yourself and send an email to David Keller with your questions.
Joan Cooper January 30, 2012 at 07:49 PM
http://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/20120126/articles/120129571 Looks like the Patch doesn't do its own research, and takes PD reporter Hays irresponsible journalism as his source. Dear Editor: The City Council made a decision based on private client/attorney privileged information from City Attorney Danly. Second guessing what that information was using a source, who as it states above, has no knowledge, is irresponsible journalism. I quote: "Stevenson, of the firm Abbey, Weitzenberg, Warren & Emery, said she has no direct knowledge of the case or its details..." The City of Petaluma made a cost- benefit business decision. They voted (6-1) to defend the taxpayers' $4,000,000 investment in acquiring and restoring the Alman Marsh, Ellis Creek Wetlands, and creating Shollenberger Park. The costs of the appeal are incremental - the lions share of the case's legal work has already been done and paid for, mostly by the community. The Council also responded to the overwhelming voice of the residents that they do not want an asphalt factory near their park or gateway. By joining the appeal the City also stands to RECOVER any legal costs already spent. Their decision is well taken. The Petaluma community stands shoulder to shoulder with their elected officials to defend our future against the County's imposition of this factory in our sphere of influence area. This is democracy at work. Save Shollenberger, Joan Cooper Friends of Shollenberger Park
Karina Ioffee January 30, 2012 at 08:28 PM
Thanks for your comments, everyone. We are working on getting a dollar figure of what the city can expect to spend on its appeal of the project, so stay tuned. While Patch.com often aggregates stories from other media in an effort to disseminate information impacting readers, the decision to rely on Press Democrat's data was unfortunate and we regret it. However, please keep in mind our overall reporting on this issue, which we have tried very hard to make sure is fair, balanced and accurate and not judge us by one mistake. If you still have concerns, I encourage you to email me directly at karina@patch.com
Joan Bunn January 30, 2012 at 08:44 PM
Glad you are back and appreciate the regrets, Karina. The PD article had zero facts. It did exactly what they intended it to do - stir the pot.
David Keller January 30, 2012 at 08:59 PM
Welcome back, Karina. We know that your standards for research and journalism are far higher than what was demonstrated at the PD, and which was very unfortunately adopted at both the Argus and Patch websites during your absence. I am looking forward to the more balanced and well-researched documentation that we have come to expect under your leadership.

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