SVCAC won’t expand soon
This is a map of the current SVCAC boundaries.
If the Sonoma Valley Citizens Advisory Commission decides to expand its boundaries, it won’t be soon and it won’t be without some political maneuvering.
The issue came up for discussion at the commission’s Wednesday night meeting, but in order to expand, the panel would need approval from both the county and the City of Sonoma, since there is a joint powers agreement (JPA) between the two governmental entities.
Incoming SVCAC chair Mark Bramfitt thinks if the expansion happens, it could be a part of the JPA agreement that comes up for renewal in December.
That probably won’t help the Kenwood residents living on Hoff, Lawndale or Frey roads who were hoping that the panel might be able to look at a proposed development by Steve Ledson that lies just outside the SVCAC boundary. As it stands now, there’s a v-shaped chunk of Kenwood that’s not in the SVCAC area.
The commission was also going to discuss whether or not it could invite projects from outside the boundary to make a public presentation, but that aspect was shot down rather quickly.
Commissioner Rochelle Campana, who represents the North Valley, put the items on the agenda because she was concerned that part of Kenwood is not in the panel’s jurisdiction.
“Even looking at the map, I’m not sure where the boundary is,” Campana said.
Commissioner Greg Carr said he was around when the commission was set up and Janet Nicholas was the 1st District Supervisor. “It was Janet’s idea to use the Planning Area 9 boundary,” he said. “It’s been in place since the late 1970s.”
But he said there was nothing “magical” about the boundary and said it’s a political choice.
When asked if there was any benefit to expand, Carr said the line would move further away from Sonoma.
But Commissioner Clarence Jenkins said he thought the boundary could be the Sonoma Creek watershed, and that would even include part of Oakmont.
Commissioner Dick Fogg said the panel would have to ask the residents outside the boundary if they wanted to be in the area, and that it would also take the approval of both the city of Sonoma and the county. Fogg added that since the panel is only advisory, if an applicant doesn’t want to make a presentation they don’t have to.
Carr said that while expanding the boundary is a bureaucratic process, asking projects from outside the area to submit to review would be “a huge problem.”
A number of Kenwood residents spoke at the meeting and Kathy Pons, president of the Valley of the Moon Alliance, said she thought the panel was a valuable forum.
“It’s a forum for the neighbors,” she said. “If a project comes here early enough in the process, the applicant can make adjustments.” She said the areas around Lawndale and Frey roads are getting built up quickly. “And we could use a forum for our issues,” she added.
Marna Hill, who lives across Highway 12 from Oakmont, said there are too many wineries going up. “We’ve got three wineries that want to produce 230,000 cases,” she said. “We need help. We want to preserve the agricultural area.”
Bob Coughenour, who lives on Frey Road, told the panel that he thinks that putting a winery and crush facility in what is now a walnut orchard is “an inappropriate use of property.”
And another neighbor, E.J. McVey, said, “I live in Sonoma Valley and I want to know why I’m not represented.”
The commissioners weren’t sure what constitutes the SVCAC boundary and whether or not it conforms to the Sonoma Creek watershed. Bramfitt said he thought the watershed boundary and the Planning Area 9 boundary were one and the same.
But some commissioners were perplexed that they’re in the SVCAC and their neighbors across the creek aren’t.
Kirsten Lindquest said she hears that people feel disenfranchised. “I’m uncomfortable we’re excluding some of our neighbors,” she said.
Sean Bellach said he doesn’t think he can tell people who live on Hoff and Frey roads that they don’t live in Sonoma Valley. “But,” he said, “I’m against this if we’re doing it to stop a proposed project.”
The panel decided to ask the county for a good map of the current boundary, an overlay that delineates the various areas of the SVCAC, and a second overlay of the watershed, to see if there is a difference.