Look out county fair when the horse excrement hits the fan

Is it fair to sue the fair

For over a year, Santa Cruz local Max Kelly attempted to communicate with the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds on issues of noise, pollution and environmental impacts.

Feeling they were unresponsive, Kelly and the organization he helped found in January, Community Alliance for Fairgrounds Accountability (CAFA), filed a lawsuit against the Fairground’s board of directors on Wednesday in Sacramento County Superior Court.

The last straw for CAFA members--who comprise over 100 Santa Cruz County locals-- came when the board of directors decided to claim a categorical exemption from a California Environmental Quality Act review for upcoming events. They did so in light of a rodeo planned at the Fairgrounds, which are located in Watsonville, in October.

“We have an issue with the process being exempted,” said Kelly. “For one, it’s illegal. Secondly, the public would like some transparency in the decision-making process.”

The public legally had 35 days to speak up, so CAFA filed a lawsuit with Santa Cruz-based

From The Patch
Wittwer & Parkin, LLP, which specializes in environmental and land-use law.

CAFA members are pro-fair, said Kelly, but had become fed up with an expanding number of issues at the fairgrounds that they found to be beyond their control. They saw increased noise from the rodeo track, manure runoff into Salsipuedes Creek, and farmers markets, “that had escalated into a party,” said Kelly.

He said the board of directors held public meetings last year, but since November has not offered an opportunity for public comment.

“The Fairgrounds current piecemeal approach to approving amplified uses and new events is illegal under CEQA (the California Environmental Quality Act),” wrote CAFA in a press release on Wednesday. “It’s quite simply time for the Fairgrounds to address, once and for all, policies and laws governing noise, environment, as well as legal requirements for transparency.”

The board of directors are withholding comment while they review the lawsuit. Still, fair leaders have previously maintained that events such as the rodeo are similar to ongoing equestrian shows, which predate the CEQA and are therefore not bound by it.

joyce oroz
12:01pm on Thursday, July 7, 2011
Let's see--who came first, the crabby neighbors or the fair? The fair has existed in the same spot for over fifty years that I know of. I loved it as a child and I love it now when I go with my grandchildren every year. I have never been to another fair as pristine and interesting as our wonderful Santa Cruz County Fair. Where else can children learn about animals, where our food comes from, hands-on science, the arts, horticulture and on and on. It's wholesome family entertainment--as American as apple pie. Apple pie can be eatten up quickly by cranky neighbors and their lawyers. I say "presere the pie for future generations."

2:20pm on Thursday, July 7, 2011
I'm with you Joyce. I have entered baked goods and crafts in the Fair for at least 10 years and going to the Fair in Sept kicks off Fall for me. The Fairgrounds were there long before any neighbors. I'm in town and can hear the race track on Friday nights (and it can be loud) but I figure it's one day a week in the summer. I'd really hate to lose our county fair. Something has to be worked out.
Rebecca Tait
3:57pm on Thursday, July 7, 2011
I agree with both of you. The fairgrounds have been here forever. I hear the car racing on Friday nights and figure "Oh well" it will be over soon. People have more trouble with neighbors having loud parties late at night than the little noise from the fairgrounds.

If you love the fair, please "like" Thank you!


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