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Teri Shore

Sonoma County Says Yes to Community Separators

After nearly two years of organizing, outreach, and coalition building, Greenbelt Alliance has advanced and strengthened the most important greenbelt protection measures in Sonoma County in decades.

On Aug. 2, after hundreds of letters and dozens of people showing up wearing “Yes to Community Separators” stickers, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to renew longstanding voter protections for community separators for another 20 years with a countywide ballot measure in the upcoming election.

If approved by a countywide majority in November, the Community Separator Protection Ordinance will extend voter protection to all green buffers designated as community separators. The ordinance prevents conversion of these rural lands to shopping malls, housing tracts, or resort hotels without a vote of the people. Polling suggests the ordinance will be overwhelmingly supported by voters.

With the same vote, the supervisors tripled the open and agricultural lands designated as community separators to shield them from the threat of sprawl for another generation. The supervisors added important lands to the existing eight community separators for a new total of 53,576 acres.

The additions were based on the top-notch technical analysis by county planning staff along with General Plan policies and extensive public input. View the interactive map on the county’s website.

The Sonoma County Planning Commission previously voted unanimously to support the community separator ballot measure and additions as proposed by county planners.

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 separators remain in place whether or not the voter protections in the ballot measure passes. However, that would allow reducing the community separators without a simple majority vote of the supervisors.

Help Protect Community Separators

We need your support to pass the measure! Help Greenbelt Alliance and friends by mobilizing and educating voters on this ballot initiative all the way to the finish line in the November election.

Greenbelt Alliance has led local groups in forming an independent campaign committee to support the ballot measure called Keep Our Community Separators.

Show your support by donating to and attending the group’s Celebrate the Separators event October 2, 2016 at the White Barn at Oak Hill Farm in Sonoma Valley, which is located in a community separator.

Donations to the campaign can be sent to Keep Our Community Separators, 555 Fifth St., Suite 300 A, Santa Rosa, CA 95401.

*Please note that contributions to the Keep Our Community Separators campaign are not directed to or affiliated with Greenbelt Alliance and thus are not tax-deductible. 

Summary of Community Separator Support

In Sonoma Valley, Supervisor Susan Gorin and Planning Commissioner Dick Fogg championed additions of natural lands of the Sonoma Developmental Center in Sonoma Valley to the Glen Allen-Agua Caliente Community Separator. They also voted for adding in the hills above the town of Sonoma, and farmlands to the southwest of town and in the “little Valley of the Moon” north of Glen Ellen.

In the North County, Supervisor James Gore, with strong support from Planning Commissioner Willie Lambert, advocated for the first and largest new community separator in decades between Healdsburg and Cloverdale. It stretches along both sides of Highway 101 and toward Russian River across thousands of acres of vineyards and pasture lands.

In southern Sonoma County, Supervisor Rabbitt backed additional community separator lands around Petaluma, Rohnert Park, and Cotati, as well as across a significant stretch of at-risk wetlands and agricultural lands between Lakeville Highway and Highway 101 that have faced threats from inappropriate development in the past.

Chair Efren Carrillo in West County was a strong voice for the community separators and the need to protect rural lands, including additional areas in the sensitive Santa Rosa Plain.

Supervisor Shirlee Zane, whose district is dominated by the City of Santa Rosa, was also on board, making the recommendation to specifically identify agriculture as critical community separator lands. 

Thank you to each member of the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors who voted to include renewing longstanding voter protections for community separators in the upcoming election.

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