Sonoma Solstice threatens greenbelt lands at the site of the old Buzzard's Gulch.
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Teri Shore

Community Separators Put to the Test

In 2016, 81% of Sonoma County voters passed Measure K to protect community separators for the next 20 years. Now, a luxury resort is being proposed on the north edge of Santa Rosa in the Windsor-Larkfield-Santa Rosa Community Separator.

Greenbelt Alliance and our allies are concerned that the size and scale of the luxury resort and event center are inconsistent with community separator policies, zoning, and Measure K. It is also in the wrong place because the Windsor-Larkfield-Santa Rosa Community Separator is already compromised by commercial development and sprawl all around it.

If allowed, the weddings, dinners, and other special events alone would attract about 16,000-30,000 new visitors per year to the site of an old youth summer camp that has not been operating for years. The developers want to construct a massive new event hall, a large new office, two dozen cabins, a large pool with cabanas, pave over most of a meadow for parking, and convert two residences into vacation rentals.

Community separators do not stop all development and allow farmers to build a barn or even a winery in some cases, as well as letting landowners keep existing land use rights. Measure K was intended to stop housing tracts, shopping malls, and commercial development—including luxury resorts like this one—from being built in the green buffers between the nine towns and cities in Sonoma County.

Greenbelt Alliance alerted allies and decision makers to this inappropriate development when the Sonoma County Design Review Committee recently gave it a first look. At the public meeting, we explained that the luxury hotel was more in line with commercial, recreational, and visitor serving uses rather than as an existing resource and rural development zone. So either the zoning needs to be changed with a countywide vote per Measure K. Or it needs to be scaled way back to be in line with existing zoning and the intention of community separators.

Also worrisome is that the project site is right next door to the historic and still operating 160-acre Cloverleaf Ranch, where children come every summer to ride horses, go on hayrides, and enjoy low-key outdoor fun. The owners attended the design review hearing and said they were upset about the luxury hotel with its wine and food events and explained how an influx of visitors right on their boundary could impact their camp.

The Design Review Committee provided extensive design comments on conceptual plans but veered away from any comments about the size or scale of the project, saying that will be up to the Board of Zoning Adjustments. That entity will review the luxury hotel and hold a public hearing in four or five months, according to the county planner.

Greenbelt Alliance will continue to watchdog this ill-conceived project as it moves forward to prevent any compromise of the community separator. To stay in the loop, contact Teri Shore.

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