In 2009, 7400 Bennett Valley Road’s former owners granted an easement (a contractual agreement to carry on the property ) into the Sonoma Land Trust, a conservation nonprofit.
“Conservation easements are legally binding and people who buy land under easement must understand that protecting these properties isn’t discretionary,” says Sarah Sigman, attorney for the trust.
Broderick said, in part,”Despite the severe injury that clearly caused their actions, in knowing violation of the easement, defendants continued to object up to and during trial which conditions on the easement property appeared to them to be largely recovered and aesthetically pleasant .”
The trust required the Thompsons to court, and Judge Broderick excoriated the landowners, noting that the pair appeared unwilling to acknowledge the harm.
Property on the market for millions after owners lose conservation battle
Defendants’ defenses are undermined by their own failure to tell the truth. Defendants’ claims fail for the further reason that defendants have no support and credibility. The vast bulk of the testimony on cross-examination of both Peter and Toni Thompson […] was misleading, evasive, inconsistent with deposition testimony, or outright false.
According to the Press Democrat, the few are pushing for a new trial, arguing inadequate representation.
The Thompsons bought the property from 2013 and, as stated by the court, proceeded to systematically violate the protections onto it, most notably by digging and murdering three oak trees.
The Thompsons place the property on the market after Broderick’s ruling. The listing includes an extra property.
Handing down a 392,167 fee specifically for the destruction of the trees on top of additional damages, the judge added that what he calls dishonesty that was constant during the trial made worse the situation:
[…]The Court finds that neither Mr. nor Ms. Thompson were plausible or persuasive, nor can they support their version of key events using one contemporaneous document.
“The easement permanently protects the natural, open space, ecological, and scenic values of this house,” as Superior Court Judge Patrick M. Broderick noted in an April ruling,”which include an exceptionally intact ecosystem dominated by largely undisturbed native vegetation.”
The sprawling 80-plus acre”wine country estate” at 7400 Bennett Valley Road, located on the rural fringe of Santa Rosa, listed for $8.45 million in April. The advertisement dubs that the five-bed, four-and-a-half-bath, 4,891-square-foot residence and surrounding land”the finest of the wine country.”
What that ad doesn’t mention was that the role that the property needed in a conservation drama that ended for the current owners in a 586,289 fine. A Sonoma County Superior Court ruled that, while renovating the property, Peter and Toni Thompson recklessly destroyed natural resources that were protected on the grounds, including felling three oak trees that were historic.
The Sonoma Land Trust says the nearly $600,000 in fines will be paid to help restore the property.