The R.A.M. Farms pumpkin patch and Fields of Ice skating rink will once again be open for business this fall and winter seasons, following a decision by the Turlock City Council on Tuesday to extend water service to the east Turlock farm that lies just outside of the city limits.
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.
"We're very happy that the Council let us annex into the city, "said R.A.M. Farms owner Ron Macedo. "We'll continue to operate in the best manner we can and do the best job we can to be good neighbors."
Although it was a unanimous decision by the City Council to extend water service to the farm, a number of neighbors spoke out against it.
"My only concern with the water...is the permanency of the site. If it was for more residential, I'd feel like it's okay, but permanency of the site for that use is like having a theme park next door for 120 days," said Zack Fowler, who lives across the street from R.A.M. Farms.
For neighbor Jason DeGroot, the noise generated by the seasonal activities is his biggest concern with R.A.M. Farms.
"I just want peace, really," said DeGroot, who added that the business using a water tank rather than accessing city water lines to fulfill the health and safety code sounded reasonable to him.
For neighbors Matt and Dana Rickard, the city should agree to extending water lines to the county-located business only after R.A.M. Farms fulfills all the conditions on its current use permit.
"R.A.M. Farms has continuously and willfully violated their use permits since 2013. The violations have been reported to the county...the county refuses to enforce," said Matt Rickard.
"In 2014 the Turlock City Council placed some requirements within the 2014 permit, those requirements have yet to be met. You have an opportunity to rectify that problem," he continued, citing a sound study that was completed a year later than mandated and showed that R.A.M. Farms violates both city and county noise standards.
"When a permit is not complied with or enforced, it's not worth the paper it's written on," said Rickard.
In response to the neighbors' concerns, the Council added the following conditions to the approval of the water line extension: 1.) R.A.M. Farms must hold a pre-season meeting with neighbors to try and work out continuing issues; and 2.) Turlock City staff will meet with the Stanislaus County Planning Department to review R.A.M. Farms' use permit and their conditions of use.
"I know you guys do a lot to reach out to your neighbors, but continue to do so...like any neighbor relationship, you have to be good neighbors and learn to work with one another," said Council member Steven Nascimento.