Angela Hart, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Sonoma County planning commissioners Thursday night signed off on a new ordinance spelling out a wide set of regulations that limit agriculture and development along 3,200 miles of streams and rivers.
The controversial changes, decades in the making, would create buffer zones around waterways and protect sensitive plant and animal habitat on roughly 82,000 acres of unincorporated parts of the county. Thursday’s 4-1 vote followed eight hours of sometimes heated deliberation, and sends the regulation to the Board of Supervisors, who are expected to vote on the zoning rules sometime this fall.
More than 70 people packed a county meeting room Thursday, while roughly a dozen others spilled out into the hallway to fill out speaking cards and read opposition letters. Speakers, many of whom were farmers and ranchers, said they were concerned about changes affecting grazing operations, habitat protection areas that extend past the riparian corridor to include tree lines and rules guiding underground wells.
“There is always going to be someone who doesn’t get what they want,” said Don Bennett, chairman of the commission. “We’ve had a lot of meetings; it’s now our job to get this into shape to the Board of Supervisors. It’s just the last step in implementing the county’s general plan.”