Neighbor against neighbor, truth against perception, and a city caught in the middle. The saga of the Dove Canyon Courtyard mercifully came to an end in 2011—we think.
At long last, after more than two years tied up in bitter controversy—planning commission meetings, sound checks, arguments for and arguments against—the city council in March gave the outdoor banquet facilty a conditional use permit that finally made the controversial business legal.
Owner Kenney Hrabik could, without threat of being shut down, hold weddings, receptions and other outdoor events on the site. Hrabik had turned an eyesore—a former plant nursery—into a diamond in the hidden Dove Canyon Plaza in 2006. But the relationship between he and some of his neighbors became downright venomous.
Wedding receptions have bands and music and clapping—and that's what nearby residents disliked hearing from their backyards and living rooms.
Neither of the two sides, DCC or its neighbors, wanted to compromise. Hrabik wanted to run his business, and the neighbors wanted their quality of life to include the sound of crickets.
Each side organized, hired a legal team and then dug into the trenches.
The two sides clashed during two , and in March the matter was ultimately appealed to the city council. Those against the Dove Canyon Courtyard sat on one side of the room, those for it on the other.
In the end, after several professional sound checks proved the DCC was actually operating within the city's noise ordinance, the city granted a conditional use permit—but not before the council imposed numerous conditions on the business owner designed to protect the quality of life for the neighboring residents.
"I definitely think this has been a fair legal process," Jerry Holloway said. "One reason this has taken so long is we've tried every remedy under the sun."
—"Dove Canyon Courtyard Wins Permit Over Residents' Appeal"
—Gary Thompson had not yet been replaced, and Jesse Petrilla was training with the California National Guard—gave something to both sides. It was a compromise to clean up a messy situation that started when DCC was given the wrong permit—an occupancy permit instead of a conditional use permit—in 2006. It cleared the way for Hrabik to grow his business, and it put restrictions on him to keep the peace.
Yet neither side was happy.
Seconds after the city council made its vote, an angry opponent of DCC flipped off city council members before that side of the room stormed out of the chambers. Hrabik wasn't happy either. He filed a claim threatening to sue the city for at least $250,000.
The two sides, mercifully, . The city of Rancho Santa Margarita, which did not admit to any wrongdoing, agreed to refund Hrabik $50,000 of the approximate $60,000 it had charged him in fees to get his conditional use permit. Hrabik had challenged the fees and called them excessive.
In return, Hrabik agreed to drop all his claims against the city, acknowledged that numerous noise complaints had been filed against DCC by his neighbors and that he had made improvements on the property without obtaining the building permits required by law.
The most complex, contentious, costly and time-consuming issue in city history had come to an end.