WatchSonoma Watch

Petaluma continues legal fight against Dutra

Aerial photo shows the area (lower right) across the Petaluma River from Shollenberger Park where the Dutra asphalt plant would be located.


Petaluma’s City Council decided Monday night to continue its legal fight against the Dutra Materials asphalt plant after two local groups pledged $10,000 to help fund the battle.

City Attorney Eric Danly announced after a closed-door session that the council voted 6-1 to press forward with an appeal of Sonoma County Superior Court Judge Rene Chouteau’s dismissal of a lawsuit against Dutra and the county challenging the plant.

The county Board of Supervisors in 2010 approved the plant, which is to be built just outside the city limits and across Petaluma River from popular Shollenberger Park and wetlands.

The council had asked Danly to evaluate Chouteau’s ruling for potentially successful legal challenges and the potential cost for an appeal.

Twenty-two residents spoke before the closed session Monday night, all but three of whom urged the council to continue the legal battle despite the cost.

Representatives of co-plaintiffs Friends of Shollenberger and Moms For Clean Air urged the city to join a group appeal, pledging $10,000 to the battle.

“We’ve raised it. We have it. We will give it to you,” said Cheri Chlebowski of Moms For Clean Air.

The commitment encouraged the council to continue litigation, council members said. Danly said the amount should fund about half of the appeal.

The only nay vote came from Councilman Chris Albertson, who said the case had been properly heard and the city should return its focus on the ever-tightening budget.

“We fought the good fight,” he said. “We did what we needed to do. We lost.”

None of the speakers offered specific legal reasons why the case merited an appeal, instead reiterating concerns raised in the six years since Dutra proposed the plant: It would be polluting, noisy, an eyesore at Petaluma’s entrance, damaging to tourism and area businesses and a potential health threat.

David Keller of the Petaluma River Council said opposition lawyers believe the judge’s ruling is flawed on several fronts.

“Judge Chouteau left us with erroneous reasoning. He left us with errors and omissions in the law, and he actually left us with a good case to go to the appeals court with,” he said.

Dutra supporters urged the council not to spend any more money on “fear, rumors and misinformation” and instead base its decision on facts.

After the vote, Aimi Dutra said she doesn’t believe the vocal nonprofit groups represent the majority of Petalumans and her family will continue planning for the plant.

Dutra operated a plant in Petaluma for 20 years not far from the current site. It closed in 2007.

12 Responses to “Petaluma continues legal fight against Dutra”

  1. Commonsense says:

    $20,000 for a appeal sounds a little bit low to me (per the article the $10,000 donated is half the estimated cost). And, I would like some more specific information on the alleged appeal issues before I was ok with any additional tax revenue going towards this appeal. Like most cities, money is a scarce resource these days and if the appeal issues are weak or likely to lose, then that cost should be covered by the interest groups in total, not just part. There are many who oppose this plant, but I’ve spoken to many who don’t, so the tax dollars here need to be spent wisely and not squandered on a purely emotional response (if that’s what it is). There should be more detail given to all taxpayers on the appeal issues, so a transparent determination can be made regarding the use of tax dollars in pursuing a appeal.

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  2. The Oracle says:

    I wish the project’s opponents had done a better job explaining why it’s bad for the community. That they didn’t risks making the lawsuit look like a manipulation of the legal process. Of course, it wouldn’t stop the name-calling from those that hate all things progressive; but it would help win over the reasonable people who don’t post on Watch Sonoma.

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  3. what if says:

    So the City estimates the appeal at $30,000. Keller’s groups will pay $10,000 so the City pays $20,000 it doesn’t have; but, what if Keller’s group doesn’t come through? Then what does the City do?

    And here’s the real clincher. Even if the appeal is successful, that doesn’t mean anything except now we have a trial. Who pays for it. And even if that is successful it only means we go back to the legislative step and who pays for that, and, if the Board votes the same way, then I guess we go back through the appeal process again, and again. But you see, that’s the way this group works. It isn’t who wins, it is how long can we delay any construction activity in Petaluma.

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  4. Jimbo96 says:

    Way to go Petaluma…waste more money at the behest of a couple of squeaky wheels. How the heck do you think the roads are maintained without asphalt? Oh yeah, you don’t maintain your roads so you don’t need any asphalt do you…No jobs, no growth is now your mantra…or should it be, “I got mine by moving here from somewhere else…now all the rest of you go somewhere else because I say so…” and by the way, I don’t want to pay for it, so tax someone else…

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  5. Irresponsible says:

    Petaluma City Council spent more than 70k on the initial lawsuit. They have now voted to spend more money on an appeal. Money they DO NOT HAVE.

    I want my tax dollars spent inside Petaluma on existing problems. Not spent on lawyers and special interest groups. Period.

    The city claims it is broke. They can’t replace street lights. City parks are embarassing. The roadways are a mess. And we wonder why.

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  6. Grey Whitmore says:

    Santa Rosa’s West side is getting ready for the same thing.

    Some company wants to expand the asphalt plant near College. Right dead center in the middle of housing.

    Sorry business. This ain’t gonna happen.

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  7. J.R. Wirth says:

    Anyone who’s driven on Petaluma’s roads knows that the town has been anti-asphalt for a long time. Petaluma needs that plant, the petroleum fumes can mask the fumes from the duck sh*t west of town. The town needs a big air-wick as it is.

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  8. Fed Up says:

    The Press Democrat and Golis wonder why Sonoma County’s jobs and economy have stalled.

    This is another good example of how the politicans kill jobs and the economy through taxes, regulations and law suits.

    Dutra made a mistake by not painting its equipment and trucks green and calling the plant a “green environmentally sustainable plant.” They would be out of the poltical woods so to speak.

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  9. HanneB says:

    “Aimi Dutra said she doesn’t believe the vocal nonprofit groups represent the majority of Petalumans and her family will continue planning for the plant.” Aimi, it is not only the “nonprofit” and private groups that are against the ashpalt plant but pretty much all Petaluma residents. Many of our friends, very hard working parents, have bought their first homes on the east side of Petaluma, and if this plant is built, their property values will drop drastically (and of course property taxes the city will be collecting will drop as well). The mayor and city council did not just vote for the NonProfit groups last night, they voted to protect all the Petaluma residents, most of whom are against this project, as we have seen in polls and the thousands of emails and letters the council has received through this time. Even Albertson, who voted no last night, has been against this project from the beginning. Our Mayor and all council members have known from the beginning that this project would be very bad for Petaluma in so many ways, for economic reasons, and possible health risks to our children and all residents and wildlife, decrease in tourism etc. and this is why the city has been fighting this and will continue to do so. It feels great to be part of such a wonderful community that sticks together.

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  10. john bly says:

    I wish a new group would start up called “Dads with jobs” but there aren’t many left—

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  11. Olivia says:

    @Skippy: The reality is that the City Council realizes that a Dutra asphalt plant at the Gateway to Petaluma and the Sonoma Wine Country is NOT pro business. An asphalt plant in the proposed location will deter tourism and increased business in Petaluma. An asphalt plant does not say: “Welcome to Petaluma.” Quite the contrary, Skippy. It says roll up your windows and detour to the next town. Can you spell Exodus? Do you love the smell of asphalt in the morning? There’s a reason why just the smell of asphalt is headache-inducing and stomach churning: It’s toxic. And the Dutra Group has proved over and over again that they have no respect for the environment and cannot be trusted. They made their history, and Petaluma should not have to live with it.

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  12. Skippy says:

    Obviously Petaluma has become a BANANA Republic.
    B uild
    A bsolutely
    N othing
    A nywhere
    N ear
    A nyone.
    The triumph of nanny-state Big Govt over actual progress and prosperity.
    Even the residents have been infected.
    After they go belly-up would the last business in Petaluma please turn out the light?

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