BY JAMES BURGER Californian staff writer email@example.com
Paul and Lorie Weinroth are hoping to write a romantic future for a Bear Valley Road property with a dark past.
The couple is renovating the property to host elegant, full-service weddings and events, taking advantage of the natural beauty of the Cummings Valley west of Tehachapi.
The home and a large metal shop building are set back from the main road on a 20-acre lot zoned for agriculture that commands sweeping views of the oak-strewn mountains, farm-steads and fields.
It sits between two wineries not far from the exclusive rural enclave of Bear Valley Springs.
But locals know 24492 Bear Valley Road as the place where one woman was arrested for animal cruelty and another was evicted after 150 of the animals living in the house and shop were turned over to the Humane Society of the United States.
That's a lot of history to overcome. On Thursday, the Weinroths go to the Kern County Planning Commission for a permit that will allow their business to operate on the agricultural land.
The Weinroth's launched Rose Garden Estate Weddings at the beginning of 2013, offering up their antique-filled, artfully landscaped Bear Valley Springs home for "intimate" celebrations.
But complaints from a neighbor about the idea, Lorie Weinroth said, grounded the business before it could host its first wedding.
So the Weinroths bought a second venue for their business -- the Bear Valley Road home where self-proclaimed animal rescuers Cynthia Gudger and Kimi Peck once kept scores of dogs, cats and other animals.
The Weinroths were motivated by the property's potential.
They knew there were kennels in the shop building and animals had been housed there, but it was only after telling friends about the purchase that they learned of the property's past.
They have already replaced one wall of the shop building with a massive plate glass window overlooking the Cummings Valley, and there are plans for large chandeliers and the remaking of the property's landscapes.
Their business plan is to handle every detail of the wedding for the bride with the wedding party using the home for its event.
"It's going to be a destination wedding venue," Lorie Weinroth said. "There is nothing like it."
In July 2008 Kern County Animal Control officers responded to the shop building at 24492 Bear Valley Road after complaints of terrible odors coming from the shed.
They found 50 dehydrated, ailing cats and dogs and 12 animal corpses, along with Cynthia Gudger, living in a lair piled with rotting food, trash and animal feces.
The owner of the home, Beverly Hills CPA Susan Marlowe, had been letting Gudger stay at the property.
Gudger, a self-described animal rescuer with a history of animal abuse charges, numerous aliases and a conviction for identity theft and social security fraud, told officers her name was Anita Gilbert.
She was arrested for animal cruelty.
Over the course of nearly two years her real identity was discovered, she skipped bail, was tracked down by a bounty hunter, ruled incompetent to stand trial, committed to a mental health hospital, rehabilitated, sentenced to time served and then arrested by federal authorities on additional social security fraud charges.
In 2009, while Gudger's drama was playing out, animal rescuer Kimi Peck moved onto the property with between 150 and 200 dogs.
Peck, another friend of Marlowe's, had transported her animals to Bear Valley Road from another property on Water Canyon Road south of Tehachapi after Kern County supervisors ruled she didn't have the permits needed to operate an animal rescue there.
Unlike Gudger, Animal Control officers said Peck did a reasonable job of caring for the needs of the animals, but just had too many of them.
And county code enforcement officers ruled that Peck, once again, had moved her rescue onto a property where an animal rescue was not permitted.
A year later Marlowe evicted her, and the Humane Society of the United States swept in to take possession of 144 dogs and 13 cats plus chickens, rabbits and rats.
Scott Denney, Planning and Operations Division chief for the Kern County Planning Department, said the Weinroth's request has a small amount of opposition from nearby property owners.
But he noted that a church project south of the Bear Valley home was approved by the county in November.
County planners are recommending approval of the Weinroth's request.