Press Release: Sonoma County Renewing and Adding Open Space and Ag Land Protections

Supervisors Unanimously Approve Community Separator Ballot Measure and Designations

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Today the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors voted 5 – 0 to renew longstanding protections for green buffers between towns and cities for another 20 years with a ballot measure requiring a countywide majority vote in the November General Election.

The Community Separator Protection Ordinance will extend existing protections for rural open space and agricultural lands designated as community separators by preventing conversion to shopping malls, housing tracts or resort hotels without a vote of the people.

The supervisors also added lands to the existing eight community separators and established a long overdue community separator between Healdsburg and Cloverdale.

“This is the most important greenbelt policy measure in Sonoma County in decades,” said Teri Shore, Regional Director for Greenbelt Alliance in Santa Rosa.  “It will preserve what we have and hold back sprawl for the next generation.”

Community separators have protected Sonoma County from the sprawl seen elsewhere and, combined with Urban Growth Boundaries, form the backbone of city-centered growth policies dating back more than two decades.

No taxes or fees are part of the ballot measure nor does it change existing land use or property taxes.

The Community Separator Protection Ordinance will protect a total of 53,576 acres of rural open space and farmlands from subdivision and sprawl. The community separators remain in place whether or not the ballot measure passes. View interactive map on the county website.

An independent campaign committee has formed to pass the ballot measure, Keep Our Community Separators.

WHY COMMUNITY SEPARATORS?

The purpose of community separators is three-fold: they serve as green buffers between cities and towns, contain urban development, and preserve the rural charm of our landscape. These policies complement the cities’ urban growth boundaries by safeguarding adjacent unincorporated lands.

Community separators serve an important role by inhibiting land speculation and the conversion of rural and ag lands into housing subdivisions, resort hotels, and shopping malls. You’d need a general plan amendment and a vote of the people to allow this type of development in the community separators.

Community separators are not a land-use designation but an additional zoning overlay. The designation does not restrict property owners or stop development, whether it is for a vineyard, winery, stable or dairy. Ag operations are allowed. Any change in use would trigger the usual county permitting and review process.

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