Judge rules the latest restrictions on Devil’s Gulch Ranch are invalid, handing matter back to supervisors

07/20/2017

Devil’s Gulch Ranch in Nicasio, a hotbed of lawsuits in recent years, had cumbersome parking and event restrictions lifted this month, though the issue was remanded back to the Board of Supervisors. Marin Superior Court Judge Paul Haakenson issued his final ruling after oral arguments between the county and a legal representative for the ranch, ultimately determining that supervisors wrongly had imposed the restrictions in 2016. Ranch owners Mark and Myriam Pasternak raise livestock and grow produce on the 75-acre ranch, which they have owned since 1971. Beginning in 2004, the county granted them a use permit to expand operations to include a year-round camp, 12 open houses or educational tours and two special events. But in response to numerous complaints from his neighbors Joseph and Kathy Jolson, who had twice sued Mr. Pasternak over issues such as the ranch’s water use, access, camps and events, the county found that the ranch had violated the terms of the use permit and issued restrictions—including to the size of vehicles he could use, his ability to park along the private road that leads to his ranch, the timing for all his events and his ability to serve alcohol. A tentative ruling was issued in late March, and, following oral arguments in June, Judge Haakenson finalized his determination that the county failed “to make sufficient findings” that Mr. Pasternak had violated his permit. This invalidated all the 2016 modifications, as they hinged on first finding a violation. “I’m grateful that the court system has worked, not just in my favor, but in resulting in rulings that I think are correct and fair,” said Mr. Pasternak, who sued the county shortly after they imposed the restrictions last November. “But I’m nonetheless disappointed that I had to resort to [a lawsuit].” Judge Haakenson remanded the matter back to the Board of Supervisors, which would have to appeal the decision and submit findings that are legally sufficient if it wishes to enforce the restrictions. “We will be taking this back to the board to figure out next steps in accordance with the court’s order,” Brian Case, Deputy Marin County counsel, said. As a result of this suit, Mr. Pasternak’s activities will be regulated once more by the terms of his 2010 use permit, and restricted by a 2015 court ruling that determined that his special events overburdened his easement on the Jolson’s private road. Ms. Jolson declined to comment at this time.