News: 1999-04.30-AntiochNoElection

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Title: Council won't call election on Renaissance Faire's plans
Date: April 29, 1999
C: (c) 1999 Contra Costa Newspapers

ANTIOCH -- Instead of bypassing the Planning Commission or holding an election, the Antioch City Council will follow standard procedures to decide whether or not to allow the Renaissance Pleasure Faire to come to town.

In the meantime, fair organizers said they're not considering Oakley or the old Byron Hot Springs as potential alternate East County sites for the festival.

They said they still plan to complete an environmental impact report as part of their application, which will likely be delayed until next spring.

On Tuesday, the council voted 4-1 to follow the usual process for considering the fair's use permit request, defeating proposals by Councilwoman Angel Sudario to bypass the Planning Commission and have the council decide the issue or put it to a vote.

Sudario made the proposals at the last council meeting after a large crowd of opponents spoke against the Elizabethan festival, which would like to stage the fair on the Higgins Ranch property along Empire Mine Road.

The fair, produced by the Renaissance Entertainment Corp. of Colorado, would feature performers and attractions that recreate 16th-century England. The event, which would draw an estimated 10,500 people a day, would run over eight weekends from late August to early October.

Among others, the proposal has sparked an outcry from residents living near Dallas Ranch Road, which fairgoers would travel en route to the site. Residents have complained about potential traffic and safety problems.

Tuesday night was no different, as a packed council chamber full of opponents and supporters debated the matter past midnight.

Most fair opponents said they didn't trust the council or the Planning Commission to make the decision. They accused the majority of both bodies of being in favor of the application.

I think the people should decide because we're going to have to live with it, said Cheryl Shaw, a member of Citizens Against Renaissance Environmental, a group formed to oppose the fair.

Opponent Ron Anderson, also with CARE, questioned why the council needs to go through with the process to consider the proposal.

We don't want it here, period, he said. We want to stop it. What's so hard about it? Why does it have to go through the Planning Commission process?

Others, however, said the council should follow standard procedure to decide the issue.

We don't change the rules for applications just because we're not in favor of that application, said Liz Rimbault, a former council member.

Antioch resident Jim Kyle said the Planning Commission process allows for both supporters and opponents to have a voice at public hearings.

City Attorney Bill Galstan said the council has the legal right to take either action, but noted the Planning Commission helps provide more public debate and information on projects.

Sudario said she felt the project was too vital to be sent to the Planning Commission -- since, she said, she has no confidence in the panel.

Sudario also said she supported having the fair perform an environmental impact report and then putting the project to a vote. She found no support from the rest of the council, however.

This is a part of the due process, Councilman Don Freitas said. I have confidence the Planning Commission, as they always have done, will act in a professional manner.

Renaissance Entertainment Corp. Vice President Howard Hamburg, meanwhile, said he isn't considering Oakley as a potential site for the fair -- even though a landowner in Oakley reportedly expressed interest in having the fair come to town. Oakley will become Contra Costa's 19th city on July 1.

I don't think there's a suitable site in Oakley at this time, Hamburg said.

Council member-elect Carol Rios said at least one large landowner in Oakley had expressed interest in hosting the fair. That individual is one of three owners who own roughly 1,500 acres of land off Cypress Road on the way to Bethel Island, she said.

The landowners have a development agreement with the county to dedicate 100 acres of park land, she said.

However, Rios said, she subsequently obtained the list of criteria for holding the fair from Hamburg and decided it wasn't possible.

Oakley doesn't have any trees, she said, adding she hopes the fair works out in Antioch. I really hope it stays in East County.

Rios also said Hamburg also looked at the site of the old Bryon Hot Springs, but found it too run-down to consider.