The Wing & Barrel Ranch, a private hunting, fishing and shooting club located off Highway 37 east of the Sonoma Raceway, faces an appeal to its January 2017 use permit – for a new clubhouse and expanded operations – at a hearing Thursday, Nov. 16, before a county zoning board.
“This proposed clubhouse with ‘premium member gun services’ would be situated in the middle of the spectacular Sonoma Baylands, a public conservation and restoration project paid for by taxpayers,” said Tom Rusert, one of two Valley residents who brought the appeal.
The other person filing was Sue Smith, who owns property near the hunt club.
The Wing & Barrel Hunt Club was first permitted in 2012 for operation at 6600 Noble Road, east of the Sonoma Raceway, as a hunting club and clay shooing course on 978 acres, with 8,500-square-foot clubhouse, 50-dog kennel, an on-site caretaker’s residence and other related structures. It’s a new location for the historic Black Point Sportsman Club, formerly in the Sears Point wetlands.
The club is legally known as Kenwood BPSC and is owned by Kenwood Investments, whose founder is Darius Anderson, who is managing partner in Sonoma Media Investments, which owns the Index-Tribune.
In 2016, the club asked for a revised use permit to build a new 26,802-square-foot clubhouse, as well as a 1.5-acre casting pond, an 85-foot-high clay shooting tower, a new parking lot and other developments. Their project description includes plans for member events and increased hours of private use.
The 2016 process for a revised use permit included review and approval by the Sonoma Valley Citizens Advisory Commission and the Design Review Committee, with eventual administrative approval coming from county Permit and Resource Management Department Director Tennis Wick on Jan. 27, 2017.
The use permit granted the Wing and Barrel extends open hours to 14 hours a day, five days a week, year-round. Because the property is under Land Conservation Act requirements for public access, there will continue to be public access just two days a week at the smaller clubhouse; bird-hunting permits would be sold to the public for $35-$45 per bird, with a minimum five-bird package ($175-$225).
Sport hunting is allowed from a half-hour before sunrise to a half-hour after sunset; the additional hours are allowed for post-hunt cleanup. Some proposed events, including food-and-wine pairings, would also extend well past sunset, to as late as 9 p.m.
On Feb. 6, a little over a week after PRMD gave its approval, Smith and Rusert filed their appeal, reopening the process leading to the hearing this week before the Board of Zoning Adjustments. Their initial appeal cited concerns with biological impacts in the low-lying Baylands area of the hunt club with its wildlife conservation and landscape preservation requirements.
Traffic safety impacts and the fate of Highway 37, public fund investments in Baylands environmental protection, potential sea level rise and the absence of compliance monitoring were subsequently raised by Smith and Rusert as related issues of concern, in their correspondence with PRMD.
But the appeal was based on more than a checklist of environmental worries.
“The most essential thing is that the project description as originally submitted is really misleading and inaccurate,” said project critic Meg Beeler, also of Sonoma Valley but not one of the listed appellants. “All the subsequent studies are based on that misleading and inaccurate description, downplaying everything that was going to happen.”