SVCAC eyes new boundaries

The Sonoma Valley Citizens Advisory Commission voted Wednesday night to expand its boundaries, changing its jurisdiction. The panel concluded it would recommend that its two governing entities, Sonoma City Council and Sonoma County Board of Supervisors, redraw its boundaries consistent with those of the Sonoma Creek Watershed – excluding Santa Rosa and areas in the 2nd Supervisorial District.

The decision came after the commission heard comments from the public and discussed members’ concerns.

SVCAC Chair Mark Bramfitt explained time was of the essence to make a decision at the Sept. 25 meeting, as the panel’s governing joint powers agreement, which authorizes it under the county and city to review planning and development proposals, is set to expire at the end of this year. The group must, therefore, decide whether it will recommend boundary expansion to the two governing bodies and give them enough time to approve a proposal.

Bramfitt went on to say the SVCAC’s current boundaries were set more than 20 years ago when the commission was created, and used the boundaries of Planning Area 9 as an easy way to divide projects amongst area planning commissions. The problem, he said, is those boundaries “uncomfortably bifurcate the village of Kenwood.”

Rochelle Campana lives in Kenwood and initially brought up the boundary expansion when she realized the current boundary line is Sonoma Creek. That means Kenwood and Glen Ellen residents who live on the side of Sonoma Creek away from Highway 12 or who live in parts of Kenwood that are northwest of Adobe Canyon Road, are not in SVCAC jurisdiction.

Sean Bellach, who grew up in Kenwood but currently lives in El Verano, said, “It’s crazy to think I’m not considered to have grown up in Sonoma Valley according to an old map.”

The commission was considering redefining its boundaries to match the Sonoma Creek Watershed, as it was a more reasonable representation of Sonoma Valley, said Bramfitt.

Cynthia Wood, who represents the South Valley and lives near Sonoma Raceway, was the only SVCAC member to advocate for the inclusion of the raceway, which falls in the watershed, in the new boundaries.

But it was soon pointed out that while the raceway voluntarily came to SVCAC with its expansion project several years ago, it actually falls in the 2nd District under Supervisor David Rabbitt, who represents Petaluma, Cotati, a portion of Rohnert Park, Penngrove, Two Rock, Bloomfield, Valley Ford and part of south Sebastopol.

Commissioner Dick Fogg cautioned the group about including an area in the 2nd District as, under the joint powers agreement, it gives authority to more governing bodies in certain areas and will likely deter the Board of Supervisors from approving the boundary change. He explained that in order for the expansion to take effect, both the City Council and the entire Board of Supervisors must approve the modification.

Robert Salomon and Bob Coughenour, neighbors on Frey Road, expressed interest in being represented by the SVCAC, especially with growing concerns over construction of a crush facility.

Jim Gilmore, who lives on Lawndale Road, said the Frey Road project is just the beginning development projects he’d like SVCAC to be involved with, adding that he feels very left out of the Valley.

Kathy Pons, a Kenwood resident and president of Valley of the Moon Alliance, said she and the Alliance’s 1,000 members supported the expansion, as the watershed boundaries are a better depiction of the Valley.

She said she was thankful for the commission, which is an advisory body that has members from city and county who review development proposals and listen to public concerns, in turn making recommendations to the city and county based on knowledge of the area and community opinion. Pons explained how this expansion would benefit many residents who feel the rural character and beautiful landscapes for which Sonoma County is known are in jeopardy. This expansion will give neighbors a tool they can use, she said, adding it may also help developers vet their projects and save money by identifying potential problems early in the process.

Pons also asked the panel to consider including the stretch from Melita to Pythian roads, which has heavy traffic, but the panel felt this area was too close to Oakmont and Santa Rosa jurisdiction.

Kirsten Lindquist said she didn’t want the panel to exclude anyone, but understood that a line must be drawn somewhere. She asked the group if it would be feasible to encourage community members to present concerns to the panel even when they were not technically in the jurisdiction. “The reality is that all of us are being impacted by these projects and proposals,” she said.

Campana and Bramfitt noted the change would not only expand the jurisdiction but also relinquish jurisdiction over some areas, including Bennett Valley proper.

Bramfitt also said that a change in boundaries may require additional panel members.

At the advice of Commissioner Fogg, the panel selected Bramfitt, Campana, Bellach and ex-officio Commissioner Greg Carr to create a definitive map of the proposed boundaries and present it to the Sonoma City Council and the Board of Supervisors.