A "special events" ordinance that will take effect Tuesday in Calaveras County is designed by planners to streamline the permit process but the owner of The Resort at Lake Tulloch calls it "a joke" and said it has contributed to the closure of her business.
The Calaveras County Board of Supervisors adopted the ordinance 5-0 at a Feb. 12 meeting, after Planning Department staff introduced the concept in an August study session.
A four- to six-month-long application process - with public hearings, a $4,764 fee, and no guarantee of an "OK" - is required for major events. Major events would include gatherings like Tulloch's "bump parties" held last year and a "Wood Whomp Festival" that drew the ire of Mountain Ranch neighbors with 24-hour musical performances for two consecutive years.
The county also filed suit against The Resort in September to stop the bump parties from recurring this year.
"I told them last year I wasn't going to do any more bump parties," resort owner Bernadette Cattaneo said Tuesday. "It was cost-prohibitive. Everyone was choking them out. They sued us anyway."
For less wide-reaching events - like setting up a parking lot fireworks stand or Christmas tree sales display - a simple over-the-counter $25 permit is prescribed.
Calaveras County Planner Darcy Goulart said the Planning Department has received some calls about the new permits. Most have been from applicants who needed a $100 administrative use permit for medium-sized gatherings in the past and will see no change, Goulart said.
Provisions are included for a no-fee administrative use permit to "grandfather" in time-honored traditional events with a history of more than 10 years such as Murphys Irish Day and West Point Lumberjack Days.
Cattaneo said she doesn't buy the county's "streamlining" assertion.
"This special events ordinance is a joke. It's taking something that was gray and making it even grayer," she said. "This is being done to get Ironstone in (compliance). It's political and it's ugly. I feel like karma is going to get them."
It is not the first time fingers have been pointed toward Ironstone by someone who got on county government's bad side. Attorneys for Trinitas Golf Course owners Michael and Michelle Nemee attempted unsuccessfully in 2011 to get a U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge to legalize golf on their agricultural-zoned land. Their argument was in part based on the idea that they were doing nothing substantially different than what the Murphys winery does with its concert series. After a ruling that ignored that particular argument, foreclosure proceedings were carried through on the now-former golf course property.
Cattaneo said the Tulloch resort is now "basically closed," with the exception of a wedding and "a motorcycle group that's coming" already planned.
"Other than that, we're done," she said. "I'm just taking my ball out of the playground and nobody's going to play with it because I'm done … I can guarantee 100 percent The Resort at Lake Tulloch will never be open as a resort/hotel/bar again."
Cattaneo said she has had discussions this week with others interested in buying the resort property and that she still believes a drug rehabilitation center would be the "best use of the property."