SAN FRANCISCO — The California First District Court of Appeal recently upheld the Sonoma County Superior Court's decision in the vineyard-regulation case, Sierra Club et al vs. County of Sonoma and Ronald and Ernest Ohlson.
In its April 21 decision, the appeals court decided to uphold the superior court's decision that a permit that the agricultural commissioner of the County of Sonoma gave to the Ohlsons did not fall under the California Environmental Quality Act. The superior court had sided with the county's agricultural commissioner and the Ohlsons.
The appeals court wrote in its decision that Sierra Club and Center for Biological Diversity asked the superior court to question what the agricultural commissioner had decided. According to the appeals court decision, the agricultural commissioner called giving the permit to the Ohlsons "a ministerial act."
The appeals court said in its decision that it upheld the superior court's decision because it felt that the appellants didn't "show that the commissioner improperly determined that issuing the Ohlsons’ permit was
The appeals court also said that "most of the ordinance’s provisions that potentially confer discretion did not apply to the Ohlsons’ project, and [the] petitioners fail to show that the few that might apply conferred the ability to mitigate potential environmental impacts to any meaningful degree."
The appeals court said the appellants argued that the commissioner's act of giving the Ohlsons the permit was discretionary and not ministerial.
The appeals court held that it "cannot conclude on this record that the commissioner’s determination that issuing the Ohlsons’ erosion-control permit was a ministerial act constituted a prejudicial abuse of discretion."