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City Settles with Dove Canyon Courtyard, Refunds $50K

Rancho Santa Margarita agrees to refund Dove Canyon Courtyard owner Kenney Hrabik $50,000 for fees associated with the business' Conditional Use Permit.

Now, finally, it really is over. The clash between Dove Canyon Courtyard and the City of Rancho Santa Margarita has been resolved. In other words, there won't be any litigation stemming from the long and costly Conditional Use Permit process DCC owner Kenney Hrabik endured to get his wedding and banquet venue OK'd by the city.

To settle, the city agreed to refund Hrabik $50,000 of the more than $60,000 he says he spent over more than two years. Hrabik had challenged the fees and called them excessive. 

“The city and its staff spent 28 months and hundreds of hours of research for my conditional use permit," Hrabik said. "I was originally led to believe the cost was going to be about $3,000. Most CUPs cost between $2,000 and $7,000. I was billed for every hour of staff time and my final bill was over $60,000!" 

Dove Canyon Courtyard was over the protests of some local residents near the Dove Canyon Plaza. It was and then, by unanimous decision, the three-man city council consisting of Tony Beall, Jerry Holloway and Steve Baric. Jesse Petrilla was away at military training and Gary Thompson had resigned.

Dove Canyon Courtyard had been the center of one of the most contentious battles in city history. Two years after opening in 2006, it was notified that an error had been made in giving it an occupancy permit and would instead need a conditional use permit.

A CUP requires a public hearing and notification of all neighbors within a radius of 300 feet. As Dove Canyon Courtyard went through this process, it was challenged by some of its neighbors, who complained about noise.

The city performed almost 40 separate sound studies with code enforcement and professional sound engineers, and it was determined that DCC was in compliance and operating within the legal sound requirement.

Hrabik said that he has lost "well over $200,000" because he had to hire an attorney and was unable to market the facility as a wedding venue during the 28 months he sought approval from the city.

"Who would plan a wedding here with the threat of being shut down," he said. "I am looking forward to putting this permit process behind me."

"This $50,000 will help."

Mark Hobbins December 28, 2011 at 07:10 PM
Mark H I am pleased that this whole mess is behind us. To spend any time plowing over the same ground is both futile and mean spirited. I for one feel that DCC is a valuable asset to our community. I have one last wish and that is for the RSM City Council to learn from this experience and see the errors made that divided our community, wasted precious city resources, and lessened the stature of the RSM City Council. I applaud the Patch for a fair article and hope they will continue to foster good will in our terrific community. For those who have not been to the Dove Canyon Courtyard I would encourage you to do so and meet with Mr. Hrabik and his staff. They are wonderful people and you will find out for yourself why so many of us are supportive of his enterprise.
Tiana Wallace December 28, 2011 at 08:19 PM
Way to go DCC! Happy celebrations in the years to come! In the words of Shakespeare's LAUNCELOT: "...truth will come to light...but at the length truth will out." The Merchant of Venice, 1596.
Marci Sparks December 28, 2011 at 10:17 PM
I have been to many beautiful events at the Dove Canyon Courtyard. I am so glad to hear that you will now be able to run your business in peace. In these tough times we should all be doing whatever it takes to support honest businesses like Courtyard.
Wendy Klapp December 29, 2011 at 01:51 AM
I have also attended and enjoyed many events at DCC and think it is a tremendous asset to have a venue like this for events of all kinds in our community. We all need to support each other in buiulding our community. The Hrabik's are outstanding contributors of our neighborhood. You won't find more honest and hard working people than them! In addition to all that they do with the DCC they have been the company behind many of our children's Proms.
Denise P December 29, 2011 at 04:09 AM
The Hrabiks are honest, hard working and caring people. They are an asset to our community. Anyone who has the opportunity to spend time and get to know them would find that they are a family with integrity. For anyone to characterize them in any other way has not taken the time to find out who they really are. Now, on to a new year free from all the red tape mess that you have had to walk thru!! Happy new year!!!! -Denise Peterson
Lori Beckman December 29, 2011 at 06:53 AM
Congratulations to the owners of DCC. How unfortunate that our city drives business away. They give many small businesses a hard time. DCC is a lovely venue. We have been to several weddings there and it is wonderful! May you be in business for many years to come. Wishing you much success!
greg adams December 29, 2011 at 10:24 PM
I have attended several events at DCC. I hope the citizens, and leaders of RSM realize how fortunate they are to have such a unique event venue in their city. It has a charm and intimacy that no hotel ballroom or community center can ever hope to match. No need to go to Laguna Beach for a similar setting. DCC has it all right here in town, and it also gernerates commerce for the city with event staff, vendors, suppliers and entertainers. Difficult to see how this could be anything but good for RSM.
DCmom December 29, 2011 at 11:05 PM
I live in DC and have watched this play out and I do have a question for Martin....have any of the current or former council taken money or support from the owners of the courtyard? If so as a taxpayer and voter I would want to know.
RSM Dad December 30, 2011 at 01:04 AM
Steve Baric and Jesse Petrilla received campaign contributions from Kenney Hrabik during and after the last election. The campaign disclosure documents are public records.
RSM Dad December 30, 2011 at 01:07 AM
Martin removed my first post for calling out facts related to DC Courtyard. Why is Patch afraid to do some investigating and print the whole story?
Roy Rivenburg December 30, 2011 at 01:10 AM
RSM Dad, your first comment was removed because it contained some potentially libelous statements.
RSM Dad December 30, 2011 at 01:19 AM
I find that rather ironic in that far worse statements have been made against people in all the CUSD discussions that are here all the time. You are not consistent which appears to show you are biased.
Roy Rivenburg December 30, 2011 at 01:29 AM
There's a big legal difference between calling someone an idiot and calling someone a crook.
RSM Dad December 30, 2011 at 01:38 AM
Jim Reardon was called a crook on several occasions. And so were other people who were involved in the various lawsuits. In fact just above is a post accussing the city council of back door shennanigans. Don't you find that libelous? I do. Your logic fails. If you are going to engage in censorship, get consistent.
Roy Rivenburg December 30, 2011 at 01:47 AM
I just did a search for "Reardon" and "crook" and found nothing. And, no, the "back-door actions" statement about public officials isn't libelous. Calling an individual who hasn't been convicted of a crime a crook is.
RSM Dad December 30, 2011 at 01:54 AM
Well, continue to defend the indefensible. Why don't you read the CUSD posts and you will see what I am talking about. You will see the libelous statements. Better yet, why don't you do some investgative journalism and find out the true facts. Just for your info, if the city incurred the $50,000 in costs they gave back, that is a gift of public funds and is illegal. Maybe you should start asking some questions. Assuming you aren't biased.
Roy Rivenburg December 30, 2011 at 01:59 AM
My guess is that you don't know much about libel law. You might start here: http://books.google.com/books?id=P4ojyCvMbKoC&pg=PA121&lpg=PA121&dq=defamation+crook+opinion&source=bl&ots=kWAegNX-Uk&sig=3PzVzUuB0XTwI0Sw6sBqitGZR0g&hl=en&sa=X&ei=9n37Tp-cJ6zaiQKM69i6Dg&ved=0CBwQ6AEwADgK#v=onepage&q=defamation%20crook%20opinion&f=false
April Josephson December 30, 2011 at 11:36 AM
Roy, I've been reading this off-topic exchange and disagree with your statement that there is a big legal difference between calling someone an idiot and calling them a crook, since (per your source) "truth is a complete defense." I looked up the definitions to understand why you think "idiot" isn't potentially libelous and "crook" is. The first definition of idiot is "a person affected with extreme mental retardation." I personally consider that to be harmful to a person's reputation, if false, which I assume it is. That would make it libelous. On the other hand, the definition of crook "a person who engages in fraudulent or criminal practices," doesn't necessarily mean the person is claiming the other person was convicted of a crime. "Or" suggests it may refer to someone who has done something "characterized by fraud : deceitful." Going further, "fraud," is "an act of deceiving or misrepresenting." So, the usage of crook meant the first person was saying the second person had engaged in deceitful or misrepresentative practices. IMO, that is no worse than calling someone extremely mentally retarded. Further, if, the person did in fact misrepresent something, as suggested, then it definitely is not libelous. The bottom line is this has nothing to do with libel law. That's a convenient excuse for you to exercise your editorial discretion. Why not just say that you don't like the term "crook," but you are fine with "idiot?"
Roy Rivenburg December 30, 2011 at 06:31 PM
April, the common interpretation of "idiot" is along the lines of "stupid" or "dumb," which isn't libelous. Claiming someone is a crook or committed criminal fraud, on the other hand, IS potentially libelous. People have won lawsuits over the second word, not the first.
April Josephson December 30, 2011 at 07:34 PM
Roy, I beg to differ. You are making assumptions as to whether something is libelous when you don't have all the facts. Why not be a reporter and get the facts? Do you have proof that someone hasn't won a lawsuit over calling someone else an idiot? There is more than one common interpretation of idiot. Also, where in the word crook does it state that the fraud alluded to is criminal? The real issue is freedom of speech v. your editorial prerogative, plain and simple.
RSM Dad December 30, 2011 at 07:37 PM
Aside from the discussion about libel and slander and censorship, and no matter how you cut it, that is what Patch has engaged in, my real question now is this. Is Patch going to do the research and investigation and report the WHOLE story about Dove Canyon Courtyard and Kenney's antics (is that word libel?), or are you going to be the tool of one side of the story and not report the real facts. Why don't you get a copy of the settlement agreement and read it. It is a public record and contains admittance by Kenney that there were numerous noise complaints from the residents (all public record) and that he did in fact construct improvements without permits (all public record) which is illegal. And then keep digging and you will soon find out how his lawyer refused to work with the city for two years who was trying to resolve this and just built up charges and attorney fees. If Kenney isn't a "crook", then he must have been an "idiot" for letting his lawyer bilk him like that.
RSM Dad December 30, 2011 at 07:42 PM
Censorship is alive and well at Patch when it comes to bias in reporting. Typical of the main stream media these days. They don't care about the facts and the full story, only what they want to social engineer the public into believing their interpretation of fact.
Roy Rivenburg December 30, 2011 at 07:54 PM
April, I would suggest doing some research on libel law. Any good attorney will tell you that calling someone a crook is potentially defamatory (see the article I linked to above, for example). They'll also tell you that calling someone a jerk, idiot, dummy, etc, is not. If you can find a case where someone won a libel suit for being called an idiot, I'll eat my hat.
April Josephson December 30, 2011 at 08:13 PM
Roy, if you read my profile on your own site, you would know that I am an attorney. I do have experience in this area. I maintain that this is about your prerogative to choose which words you want to allow and which ones you don't. You're the editor. You make the decisions, regardless of the validity of the statements involved, without researching their truth or falsehood—which is the true test of whether something is libelous or not.
DCmom December 30, 2011 at 08:31 PM
In light of the new information provided by posters it seems patch needs to update the story and provide a copy of the settlement as well as the information about financial support to councilmen. Did Kenny try to buy influence so he could extort money from the taxpayer? Why did he , Kenny put his name in for the empty seat, what are his real intentions, as a taxpayer and voter the truth about Kenny needs to come out so the voters can stay away from anyone he supports in the future…
DCmom December 30, 2011 at 08:35 PM
thank you for the information, I live in DC and did see a 'Baric' sign on the back of a DCC van several days in a row during the last election, even voted for him, won't make that mistake again. This payout is typical Gov. corruption we are all sick of.
Sarah H January 04, 2012 at 04:16 AM
I would suggest everyone review what the truth really is before we make assumptions. Of the top 4 candidates in the last election, Councilman Steve Baric is the only one who DIDN'T take any money from Kenny Hrabik. In fact, I think Steve Baric is the only councilmember who refused to take city heath or pension benefits voluntarily too. RSMDad's comments and accusations just sounds like the dirty politics that we are trying to keep out of our community. This whole thing sounds to me like the Council just did their best to make sure their residents were protected and not adversely impacted. And giving the 50K back to DCC is probably the most PRO-business thing I have seen anyonr do in a LONG time, when was the last time the government gave you back money??? Kudos to the Council for doing what was best for its residents and its businesses... I'm proud to have voted for Steve Baric and the rest!
Dove Canyon Oldtimer January 09, 2012 at 03:45 AM
Actually you better check again Sarah. Steve Baric did take money from Kenney. It came in after the election. And neither Thompson nor Blais took any money from Kenney at any time. If you don't believe me, go to city hall and pull all of the campaign statements on file there. They are public record. Both Batric and Petrilla are bought and paid for Kenney stooges now. As far as giving Kenney any money back, seems to me that since he admitted he made illegal improvements to his property and he did have issues with noise until he was forced to do something about it, he shouldn't have gotten a dime. Kenney is no victim here and his day is coming when the entire truth will be out there, including every backroom shennanigans he and his lawyer were playing. Kenney wants to play politics, then he will learn what it is like to play the game.
April Josephson January 09, 2012 at 05:26 AM
Sarah, your comment is not only inaccurate, but humorous. Neither Blais nor Thompson took anything from Kenney Hrabik. In fact, Mr. Hrabik has stated numerous times in public that he DID NOT support Mr. Blais, the fourth place finisher, and that he was responsible for his loss. Ask Mr. Hrabik yourself.
DCDUDE January 10, 2012 at 03:28 PM
I am friends with someone who was part of the group fighting against Dove Canyon Courtyard. They felt if they complained enough to the city, this business would feel the pressure and go away. They allegedly used past councilman Christy Riley influence with the old city council of Beall, Holloway, Thompson, Blais, Thor. It is important to note that Christy Riley lives right behind DCC. This group organized their complaints on wedding nights. The problem was they could not catch DCC in a noise violation. After about three years, the city had no choice but to issue DCC their permit. I believe the city settled for $50,000 because they were at risk of losing so much more in a lawsuit. It was common knowledge around Dove Canyon that influence peddling was going on. DCDUDE

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