Beach Campground Plan Direction Unclear

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August 12, 2008 by   - () Leave a Comment

The owner of Lawson's Landing disagreed Monday (Aug. 11) with his own consultant over interpretation of a master plan for the popular Dillon Beach resort under review by officials in Marin County, Calif.
With the Marin County Planning Commission due to refer the plan later this month to the board of supervisors for final approval, critics of the plan say many unanswered questions remain, according to the Marin Independent.
"The plan in front of you is a mess," Catherine Caufield, director of the Environmental Action Committee of West Marin, told the Planning Commission, which reviewed details Monday.
Maurice "Skip" Schwartz, executive director of the Audubon Canyon Ranch, said, "So far, it's all smoke and mirrors."
The 940-acre private campground, situated at the mouth of Tomales Bay in Dillon Beach, north of San Francisco, has a loyal following, many of whom vacation there in recreational vehicles. Environmentalists say the owners have operated the property – one of the most sensitive natural areas on the Northern California coast – for more than 40 years without proper permits.
Environmentalists complain that county officials have based their evaluation of the master plan on historic use of the resort, even though that use was never sanctioned by government. According to the staff report prepared by the county's Community Development Agency report, "Data to clearly document legal or illegal uses over this time period is largely not available. County file records for the site are not very conclusive, complete, or consistent."
The proposed plan to make the resort legal calls for reducing the maximum number of campsites allowable there during periods of peak use from 1,000 to 600 and cutting the maximum number of vehicles permitted from 1,233 to 813. The peak number of recreational vehicles also would be reduced from 233 to 213.
But Scott Hochstrasser, the consultant working for the resort, said Monday that under state law, the campsites are actually defined as "lots" in a special occupancy park. As a result, Hochstrasser said each lot could accommodate as many 10 people for up to 30 days.
"And the number of vehicles? They don't define how many vehicles would be allowable," Hochstrasser said. He said the lots would vary in size and accommodate a wide variety of recreational vehicles.
"We're planning for a kind of a zoo of vehicles," Hochstrasser said.
Before he had finished, Mike Lawson, one of the resort's owners, rose to the speaker's podium to correct him.
"I don't know how Scott got on the wrong tangent as far as vehicles," Lawson said. "We actually count the number of vehicles. We don't count campsites. We count vehicles."
Nona Dennis, president of the Marin Conservation League, said many of the positive changes contained in the plan wouldn't occur until three years after the plan was approved. A new septic system might not be installed until it was financially feasible for the owners, Dennis said.
County planning commissioner Wade Holland said the 40% reduction in campsites and 10% cut in recreational vehicles contained in the plan is largely illusory because the cuts are reductions in maximum use only.
"On any given weekend, when you don't reach that maximum, there is no reduction whatsoever," Holland said.
Scott Wilmore of Homestead Valley defended the resort. He said it makes it possible for people who can't afford an expensive hotel to vacation at the beach.
"Ecology is not limited to neighborhood stockholders; it affects all of us," Wilmore said.

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