Nonprofit gets extension on downtown Sonoma Clydesdale farm purchase

Blue Wing Adobe Trust has until Feb. 28 to raise balance of $7 million purchase price|

A nonprofit under the gun to raise funds for the purchase of the 2.7-acre Clydesdale farm property on East Spain Street got a “loosening of the reins” this week in the form of a much-needed deadline extension.

The Blue Wing Adobe Trust now has until Feb. 28 to raise the $7 million needed to purchase 196 E. Spain St. – known as Mission Bell Farms – which was put on the market by owner Deana Castagnasso last March.

To date the nonprofit has raised “above $3 million,” according to board president Patricia Cullinan.

Blue Wing Adobe Trust board member Will Honeybourne said that the balance of the required funds to purchase Sonoma’s iconic downtown Clydesdale horse farm must be raised by the end of February, or the deal would fall through.

“If, by then, we have the necessary funding, we will move forward to closing the purchase,” he said. “If not, we will return the donated funds to our generous donors and cancel all the pledges that we have received.”

The Blue Wing Adobe Trust is a historic preservation nonprofit leading a community effort to preserve and operate the farm.

In June, the Adobe Trust board reached an agreement with the Castagnasso family to purchase the property for $7 million – with a $2 million nonrefundable deposit due Nov. 30 and the balance due Jan. 15.

Just prior to that November deadline, Blue Adobe Trust spokesperson Patricia Cullinan told the Index-Tribune that the nonprofit had commitments from more than 100 potential donors for more than $2.7 million.

But the trust was dealt a setback when it learned in September that it was not selected to participate in the 2018 Sonoma County Agricultural and Open Space Matching Grant program. There were eight other applicants for the county’s matching grants, with a total of $4 million set aside for the program, according to matching grant coordinator Jennifer Kuszmar of the department.

At its Nov. 19 meeting, the Sonoma City Council considered a request for $1 million to support the acquisition of the property. City staff highlighted a slight downtick in expected tourism tax revenue to the city in 2018 and suggested meeting the Blue Wing Adobe Trust halfway with a $500,000 contribution, and that amount was approved unanimously by the five-member council.

The Mission Bell Farms property consists of an 1890s-era single-family residence, two barns and several other structures located in and around the downtown’s complex of historic sites – including the Mission San Francisco de Sonoma, the Sonoma Barracks, the Blue Wing Inn and the Sonoma Plaza, among others. The residence and barns are identified in the National Register of Historic Places as “contributing buildings” to the Sonoma Plaza National Landmark District.

The property is zoned for “medium density residential,” however, which, if sold for development, would allow for up to 11 units per acre.

According to city staff, the $500,000 donation by the City of Sonoma would go toward the purchase of a conservation easement on the already developed portion of the parcel, a move that would permanently limit any further development – a key goal of the Blue Wing Trust.

The upcoming community outreach will be overseen by Blue Wing Trust fundraising chairs Simon and Kimberly Blattner.

Honeybourne added that the board was encouraged by the more than 9,200 signatures currently on trust’s Change.Org online petition. He added that urgent fundraising activity continues on a number of fronts including from private foundations, individuals, businesses, as well as at the city, county and state levels.

If the Blue Wing Trust secures the funds to meet the new Feb. 28 deadline and ultimately assumes ownership of the property, it plans to operate the farm as a combination park, horse stable, wedding venue, and to rent the onsite house as either a vacation rental or a long-term residence.

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