After nixing an idea requiring Sivananda Yoga Farm guests to undergo criminal background checks to ensure the safety of the Ballantree Lane neighborhood, the Nevada County Planning Commission approved the meditation retreat's plan for expansion.
A few neighbors of the site off McCourtney Road expressed concern the expansion may trigger a rise in the number of wanderers on their own properties. The concern arose out of an incident from last year when one neighbor was interrupted in the middle of the night when a yoga farm guest intruded into his home.
The yoga farm apologized for the incident, saying this guest was no longer welcome at the yoga farm.
They also said further prevention has taken place to deter their guests from roaming. Upon arrival at the center, guests must read and sign a lengthy rule list that includes things such as no smoking, no drinking, no nudity, no running on Ballantree Lane, and adherence to the "no trespassing" signs that border the property, said yoga farm resident Michael Newton.
Farm organizers said they want to expand so ultimately they will be able to host 67 overnight guests and 100 guests during special events. The site previously was allowed to have only 40 people, including staff, on site at any time.
The plan includes an increase in the number of cabins, a dormitory, and canvas tents to house the overnight guests and the staff. The plan will phase in the construction, and the first phase must be finished within three years, although the planning representative for the yoga farm, Mark Dyal, said it could be completed in as little as six months.
From the planning commissioners' perspective, approval for the expansion project hinged upon the yoga farm adhering to fire safety requirements, which included the widening of Ballantree Lane and the installation of fire sprinklers in the barn structure.
The requirements for the farm were based on several things, including the fact that the farm is located between three fire stations that are at times not staffed, said California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection Planner Chief Charlie Jakobs.
In August 1992, a barn on the yoga farm burned down as a result of a fire that started on a neighboring property. The barn was rebuilt and the yoga farm was permitted to convert the structure into an assembly hall if they added a sprinkler system and other fire prevention systems. The catch for the yoga farm, however, is that the expansion would draw in the revenue needed to pay for the expensive fire safety requirements. The multi-phase plan is expected to allow for additional use while ensuring the safety of the farm guests, staff, and neighbors.
The director of the yoga farm, Swami Sitaramananda, said the neighbors are welcome to visit the yoga farm and the 27 acres of open space, which is a home for trails and meadows for people to meditate and walk.
What is the yoga farm?
The Sivananda Yoga Farm is a yoga meditation retreat dedicated to the teaching and practice of the five basic principles of Buddhism - proper exercise, breathing, relaxation, diet and thinking.
Inspiration for the center came from an Indian doctor, Swami Sivananda, who was born in 1887 and became a well-known 20th century yoga master.