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Bluebird Canyon Farms can host more events, expand its apiary after Laguna council denies neighbors’ appeal

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The Transition Laguna Harvest Festival — pictured in 2013 — is one of several events held at Bluebird Canyon Farms. The Laguna Beach City Council approved permits Tuesday that would allow that and other agricultural and educational events on the property.
(File Photo)

Laguna Beach’s Bluebird Canyon Farms can continue hosting agricultural and educational events, as well as expand its existing infrastructure, following a City Council vote Tuesday night.

After agreeing to additional conditions regarding its operation hours, the council unanimously denied an appeal filed by neighboring residents and upheld a June Planning Commission decision to grant the farm a conditional use permit to host events and classes.

The council also approved a coastal development permit for the farm to expand an existing apiary to include up to 30 beehives.

Bluebird Canyon Farms, at 1085 Bluebird Canyon Drive, will be allowed to hold events and classes on its property from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays and between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. on Saturdays.

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The apiary also will be subject to inspections.

“I have been happy about the outpouring of goodwill that we’ve received,” Bluebird Canyon Farms owner Scott Tenney said after the vote. “It’s sort of helped with a lot of the discouragement. This has been a two-year process ... so we’re just pleased that it’s over.”

Aaron Talarico and other neighbors of the farm appealed the earlier commission approval in July, arguing that the decision did not comply with the city’s general plan and zoning codes and that the property was not properly evaluated in accordance with state environmental laws.

Talarico said neighbors’ other primary concerns were fire safety, a lack of explicit operating hours, noise and a general distrust that the farm would adhere to the permit conditions because of its history of running events and classes beyond the scope of its business license.

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Bluebird Canyon Farms applied for the additional permits after city staff learned of those violations in November 2017.

Neighbors in favor of the appeal also asserted that they did not receive adequate notice regarding hearings on the potential changes.

Other issues brought up during Tuesday’s hearing included the possibility of late operating hours and the expansion of the apiary, which some residents claim is a nuisance. Residents also raised concerns about safety in the event of an emergency due to the farm’s position on Bluebird Canyon Road — where numerous visitors could potentially block the way out of the canyon.

Tenney refuted those complaints, arguing that the claims were unsubstantiated.

Talarico and other neighbors requested that the city impose additional conditions to limit classes to two hours, eliminate events and require the city manager’s office to approve classes to ensure that Bluebird Canyon Farms was abiding by its permit.

Residents also asked for the City Council to review the permit again in six months to ensure compliance.

Opponents of the appeal called those requests “draconian” and unnecessary.

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Talarico said Wednesday morning that he thought the council “did a good job” in reviewing the matter.

“I think it’s a good starting point and let’s see how it goes,” he said. “And, obviously, it’ll be reviewed as it goes along to make sure it’s consistent with everything that got approved and hopefully it’ll end up being a great thing. I thought everybody that was in support of the appeal did a great job on keeping all the comments really civil and constructive. I was really proud of that.”

Mayor Pro Tem Steve Dicterow said that he felt the Planning Commission had already adopted conditions addressing almost every concern posed by residents and that he supported the adopted operating hours for the farm.

Councilman Peter Blake agreed, describing the appeal as a “not in my back-canyon situation.”

“It is a conditional use permit, which means that there are conditions,” Blake said. “And if Scott doesn’t go by the conditions, then we have an opportunity — just like if any of us go home tonight and make noise or our bees poop on somebody’s car — we have the opportunity to go back to planning and complain and actually go and complain to him because he seems like a guy that really listens to people.”

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