R.A.M. Farms is hoping the City of Turlock will agree to extend water service to its N. Daubenberger farm, which is located on county land just outside of the City limits, so that the business can continue to operate its popular seasonal activities — including a pumpkin patch and corn maze in the fall and Christmas tree lot and ice skating rink in the winter.
The operation is required to secure a public water system to meet a condition of use on its permit issued by the Stanislaus County Planning Department. The condition was added to R.A.M. Farms' permit to comply with California Health and Safety Code, which requires businesses that operate more than 59 days of the year with 25 individuals or more on site daily to provide a system for the provision of water for human consumption.
According to R.A.M. Farms, extending City of Turlock water service to the property is the most viable option for the business, as the farm's current agricultural well is old and has poor water quality. Drilling a new well could cost upwards of $87,000, according to estimates provided by R.A.M. Farms to the City, while extending water service 60 feet through one inch pipe could cost closer to $17,000.
R.A.M. Farms neighbor Dana Rickard is hoping the Turlock City Council denies the business' request, as she's had nothing but trouble with the operation since it went from a farm that hosts a pumpkin patch each fall to a full-scale winter destination that sees upwards of 30,000 visitors a year.
It's not just the significant increase in traffic and noise the seasonal operations bring to the quiet east Turlock neighborhood, said Rickard. She said R.A.M. Farms has operated outside of its permitted uses since it opened and providing water to the business will just allow it to continue to ignore the conditions with no consequences.
"Basically, they have violated many portions of their permit from the beginning," said Rickard.
When R.A.M. Farms originally opened the Fields of Ice skating rink in 2013, the hours of operation permitted by the county were noon to 6 p.m. weekdays and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. weekends. She said the ice rink stayed open well past 6 p.m. and then the next year they just asked for longer operating hours, which were approved.
She also has an issue with the "temporary structures" condition of use on R.A.M. Farms' permit. The permit states that all structures — except for a small barn, shed and ticket booth — must be temporary and be erected no sooner than 30 days before each season and taken down no later than 30 days following the season.
The "temporary" 100 by 80 foot structure on the farm that was built to cover the ice rink was still standing on Friday, seven months after the end of the winter season.
"Once they get City water, who knows what they will ask for in the permit," said Rickard.
Rickard is not the only Turlock resident to complain about R.A.M. Farms' operations.
Turlock Planning Commission Chair Victor Pedroza said Thursday that he's received a number of complaints from residents about the business.
"I'm very disappointed in how the whole R.A.M. Farms thing has played out," he said. "It's suppose to be temporary, that steel building. It's not temporary, it's there to stay."
The Turlock City Council is expected to consider R.A.M. Farms' request to have City water service extended to its location at their next meeting, set for 6 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, 156 S. Broadway.