News: 1999-04.15-AntiochBattle

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T: Renaissance fair faces battle against its plan to move to area
D: April 15, 1999
A: Imran Ghori
C: (c) 1999 Contra Costa Newspapers


An informational meeting about the proposed relocation of the Renaissance Faire to Antioch will be held at 7 tonight in the West Cafeteria of Deer Valley High School, 4700 Lone Tree Way, Antioch.

ANTIOCH -- Opponents of the Renaissance Pleasure Faire made it clear Tuesday night that the Elizabethan festival will have a battle on its hands in trying to move to Antioch.

About 50 residents packed the Antioch City Council chambers to express their displeasure with plans to move the fair to the 600-acre Higgins Ranch site along Empire Mine Road.

The popular event, which features performers and attractions that recreate 16th-century England, has applied for a use permit to put on the event for eight weekends a year from late August to early October.

The Colorado-based Renaissance Entertainment Corporation, which puts on five such fairs around the country, has been looking for a new Northern California home because its current location in Novato is slated for development.

Getting an early start

The planning commission isn't expected to consider the matter until late April or early May -- and it wasn't on the council agenda for Tuesday night -- but as plans for the fair have become more publicized, opponents have started to organize in the past few weeks.

Most of the opposition has come from residents of the Dallas Ranch Estates subdivision -- which fairgoers would pass on the way to the site -- who organized under the name Committee Against the Renaissance Environment and retained an attorney.

Their attorney, Gerald Hill, said the group has gotten involved now so city officials can't say residents didn't make their objections clear soon enough.

"We want to let you know now where we stand in that regard," Hill said.

Much of the concern from opponents is about traffic. Fairgoers will take a route up Lone Tree Way and down Dallas Ranch Road. An alternate route would take them up Deer Valley Road and along Empire Mine Road.

Could draw 5,000 cars daily

The fair is expected to draw about 175,000 people, or an average of 10,500 people and 3,000 to 5,000 cars a day.

Residents who already endure crowded roads on weekdays say they'll have no relief on weekends if the fair is approved.

"For eight weeks, we'll be prisoners here," said resident Michael Buchanan, who predicted that he and his neighbors won't be able to get out of their homes during that period if the fair moves here.

Others cited concerns about crime, property values and fire hazards as a result of the event.

"That fair will not be safe for our city," said resident Mary Betts.

Supporters of the fair say it will be an economic boon to the city, bringing about $11 million to the local economy, including $200,000 a year in tax revenue to city coffers.

Siding with opponents, Councilwoman Angel Sudario suggested that the council bypass the planning commission and consider the permit itself.

"Why does this have to go to the planning commission? Why can't we kill it now?" she asked.

She later suggested that the council put the matter to a voter referendum. Both proposals will be discussed at the April 27 council meeting.

'We don't have all the answers'

Councilman Don Freitas said opponents have legitimate concerns that need to be discussed but some information, including the results of environmental and traffic studies, isn't in yet.

"Right now we don't have all the answers," he said.

He argued that it is unfair to come to a conclusion without knowing the facts.

Although he didn't name her, Freitas accused Sudario of "grandstanding" on the issue.

He said circumventing the planning commission would be a bad precedent -- and could backfire on opponents by giving them less of an opportunity to discuss the proposal at planning commission hearings.

"Be careful what you ask for," Freitas said. "You might get it."

Sudario also criticized City Manager Mike Ramsey for including information on the Renaissance Faire on the city's Web site and providing a link to the fair's Web site. She demanded that he remove it.

For information only

Ramsey responded that he would remove it if directed by a majority of the council.

"It was not put on there to sell the Renaissance Faire," he said. "It was put on to provide information."

At Sudario's request, that item also will be discussed at the April 27 meeting.

Fair representatives were not at the meeting but have scheduled a presentation at 7 tonight in the West Cafeteria of Deer Valley High School. They plan to take questions from residents.