Talks between opponents in the Lafferty Ranch lawsuit have stalled once again after legal counsel failed to reach a resolution during a meeting last Friday.
Counsel representing public sides of the decades-long battle met to further discuss access to Lafferty Ranch, a 270-acre piece of city-owned land northeast of Petaluma.
With no resolution in sight, The Friends of Lafferty filed a second amended complaint by their Monday court deadline, which included the addition of the City of Petaluma as a plaintiff.
The amended suit follows Sonoma County Judge Elliot Daum's ruling last year that county maps from 1877, presented by the plaintiffs, were insufficient proof of the city's legal right to the land's access point — a 905-square-foot piece of land between Sonoma Mountain Road and the gate to Lafferty Ranch.
Since then, additional county deeds and easements have been discovered, as well as maps from 1866 and 1869 showing a county approved road that includes the Lafferty entrance and runs over the Pfendler property.
Defense attorney Les Perry, who represents property owners Kimberly Pfendler and the Bettman-Tavernetti family, said he sees no kind of settlement being reached in the near future.
"On Friday, it became clear we were at a fork in the road," Perry said.
Petaluma City Attorney Eric Danly said he's hopeful that the parties will resolve the issues of access and the level of appropriate land use with continued discussion.
Advocates who want Lafferty Ranch to serve as a public park filed a lawsuit last year, rekindling an argument from the 1990s that neighboring property owners cannot legally block access to the city's land.
In the past, Perry's clients were against any type of public access, because of privacy and safety concerns due to increased traffic of recreational users.
"Now we're saying, we think the land can accommodate some level of use, but we need to talk about what that is," Perry said.
Perry claims the plaintiffs and city decided against discussing land use during Friday's meeting.
"They just wanted to talk about the access to the corridor, and not the full scope of potential uses of the property," Perry said.
But Danly said that's inaccurate.
"No one intends to walk away from discussions about (land) use," Danly said.
Sonoma County Supervisor David Rabbitt said the county didn't join the suit because he feels more mediation should take place among the parties.
"I don't believe the lawsuit really achieves the long-term goal of getting access to Lafferty," Rabbitt said.
Perry and the defendants will review the plaintiffs' amended complaint within the next 30 days. If they feel that the opposition still lacks insufficient proof, Perry said they'll "file another demur and see what the court has to say about it."
A case management conference will take place April 29 at 3 p.m., during which the plaintiffs, defendants and counsel will discuss upcoming proceedings and the schedule for litigation.
(Contact Allison Jarrell at firstname.lastname@example.org)