SEBASTOPOL, Calif. -- Did someone in this wine country town illegally plant an endangered flower to sabotage a proposed housing development? That is the question at the center of a quarrel folks here have dubbed "Foamgate."
... opponents seized on the discovery of the federally protected species in hopes it would force the developer to scale back plans for 145 houses and apartments.
But state wildlife officials investigated and concluded that the meadowfoam had been transplanted there. They ordered it dug up.
"Our community takes a very hard, careful look at development," said Kenyon Webster, the town's planning director. "That small-town character is the reason a lot of people want to live here."
When the meadowfoam appeared in April 2005, and the Department of Fish and Game determined it had been planted, it appeared to be the work of zealous conservationists.
"The people who planted it mistakenly believed that it would be the silver bullet that killed the project," said Scott Schellinger of Schellinger Brothers, the developer behind Laguna Vista.