jenny-blaker

A Tour of Cotati’s Greenbelt

All nine of Sonoma County’s incorporated cities and towns have urban growth boundaries (UGBs) in place, which designate where growth can and cannot happen.

They direct new houses, shops, and other development inside the footprints of the cities and prevent urban development in the open spaces between communities.

Several communities have already renewed their UGBs for 20 or more years. But several others including Cotati, Sebastopol, and Windsor have UGBs that are expiring in the next two to three years. Greenbelt Alliance is partnering with Sonoma County residents, elected officials, and city planners to generate strong support for maintaining and renewing these important city-centered growth policies.

Together with community activist Jenny Blaker, Greenbelt Alliance showed up at the final hearing for Cotati’s general plan update urging the City Council to include the renewal of the city’s UGB—which is expiring in 2018—as part of the update. As a result, the City Council made it clear that they are committed to renewing Cotati’s urban growth boundary for the long term with a ballot measure in 2016, possibly without a sunset (expiration) date this time.

Prior to that public hearing, Jenny invited me to tour Cotati and I had the pleasure of getting to know her town and the greenbelt lands that are protected by its urban growth boundary. A long-time activist, Jenny—together with friends and neighbors—helped found the Cotati Creek Critters, a habitat restoration program. Over the years, Cotati Creek Critters volunteers planted thousands of native plants along the banks of the Laguna de Santa Rosa, which runs through Cotati. On our tour, we traced the Laguna upstream toward the historic headwaters, a de facto greenbelt or buffer area marking the edge of the city.

Jenny knows every walkable inch of the small town, which retains its rural character even though it’s in between two much larger cities, Rohnert Park to the north and Petaluma to the south. She showed me the old farm houses and huge pastures that skirt the edge of town. Some of the properties fall within the city’s urban growth boundary. Others stretch into the incorporated lands south and east of the existing Petaluma-Cotati-Rohnert Park community separator, which is protected greenbelt land between those cities. These are the places where families are leaving their farms and where cities and developers are looking to build houses. And these are the types of lands that would benefit from being added to the county’s protected greenbelt.

Without urban growth boundaries, we face a loss of open space, natural lands, and farms. Together with communities, cities, landowners, farmers, and conservationists, we can ensure long-term protection for rural areas between our cities and towns.

If you’d like to help, please contact Teri Shore, tshore@greenbelt.org.

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