The Humboldt County board of supervisors denied an appeal to Reggae on the River's Conditional Use Permit last week in a 4-1 vote, with first district supervisor Rex Bohn dissenting. After commenting on the failure to find common ground between ROTR and appellant Zach Bowman, owner of the nearby Patriot Gas Station, Bohn recalled that in January all parties had agreed to work together on resolving their dispute.
"After the Jan. 3 meeting, I didn't think we'd be back here," Bohn said, "I'm disappointed."
There was some debate over whether or not the board of supervisors meeting was the right venue for the Bowman's ongoing conflict with the Mateel. After the meeting, Lovelace wrote on Facebook, "We cannot mandate as conditions of approval that two neighbors have to get along. The appeal process is an inappropriate forum for trying to resolve this kind of dispute."
Lovelace made the same point verbally during the meeting, calling Bowman's appeal an "offensive" way to deal with a dispute between two private parties. Second district supervisor Estelle Fennel responded by pointing out that the matter had been brought before them at a public hearing.
Bowman, for his part, again explained the impacts he expects to see as a result of Reggae on the River's traffic mitigation plan.
"The issue here is that people going north can't access my store," Bowman said. "I have a right to access those customers - it's how I make my living."
Bowman added that there's a clear difference between customers that are in the area for ROTR and the typical tourist travelling through on Highway 101 to some destination other than Piercy. Supervisor Ryan Sundberg pointed out that Bowman's issues with the event's traffic mitigation plan were due to requirements imposed by the California Highway Patrol and Caltrans - not the Mateel Community Center or Reggae on the River. Sundberg also asked whether or not Bowman would continue to oppose the festival's permit if no agreement could be reached on this matter.
"We do want the event to go on," Bowman added, "but I need my customers."
Despite Bowman's appeal being denied, the Humboldt County board of supervisors did make one provision to address his concerns. To enable better access to the Patriot and Renner gas stations for tourists headed northbound through Piercy, barriers preventing left turns across the center-line of Highway 101 will be removed during periods of low-traffic. This will allow northbound travellers to turn left into the gas station, and then turn left again when re-entering the roadway. The removal or replacement of those barriers will be done at the discretion of CHP personnel, but the hope is that this arrangement will allow for unimpeded access to the Patriot and Renner stations during time-periods where that access is deemed safe.
In the end, supervisor Fennel made the motion to deny Zach Bowman's appeal, and it passed 4-1 with first district supervisor Rex Bohn casting the sole dissenting vote. He later called it a "frustration vote."
"It wasn't so much against the project," Bohn told the Redwood Times, "I think we all know what reggae brings to the table. I thought there was going to be some effort to work together, and I'm frustrated that didn't happen. Hopefully when we review this next year, we'll have some better numbers and documentation on how it actually worked for all the parties involved."
The Redwood Times asked appellant Zach Bowman to comment on the board of supervisors' denial of his appeal.
"Obviously there was no way for the board of supervisors to approve my appeal, so I should've gone a different way," Bowman said. "I'm evaluating my options as far as that goes."
"I want it clear that I wasn't trying to stop the event, but I have a right to the folks heading up the highway," he added.
Despite Bowman's unsuccessful appeal, Reggae on the River 2013 is still scheduled to take place at it's original French's Camp venue, Aug. 1-4.