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Green light for greenbelts

In a big year-end win for greenbelts, all five Sonoma County supervisors came out strongly in favor of extending voter protections for community separators and adding to them in 2016! Community separators are one of the important tools protecting the greenbelt lands between Sonoma’s cities and towns from sprawl development.
In a room filled with about 50 supporters wearing “Strengthen Community Separators” stickers, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to develop a ballot measure for November 2016 to renew county community separators. See the front page Press Democrat article for more.
All five supervisors also made a commitment to consider adding as many as 22,000 acres of priority greenbelts to community separators in a parallel public process through the General Plan. Hear it in their own words in this short KRCB radio interview.
Ballot Measure: The Sonoma County supervisors voted unanimously to develop a ballot measure to extend voter protections for the county’s eight community separators for the November 2016 general election.
The supervisors agreed to extend voter protections to existing and future community separators between unincorporated communities for 30 years, a strong new policy that opens the door to community separators between places like Forestville and Graton.
They decided to keep the voter protections linked to urban growth boundaries.  The revised policy maintains voter protections for community separators in perpetuity – as long as a city maintains voter protections for its Urban Growth Boundary. A uniform long-term expiry date for all community separators are more protective by preventing lapses in voter protections.
They did not agree to add any new designations through the ballot measure.
General Plan Amendment: The supervisors voted to designate priority greenbelts and consider designating other at-risk county lands by amending the General Plan in a parallel public process in 2016 for adoption no later than January 2017.
Please note that they will consider adding more than 22,000 acres of Sonoma County lands that qualify as priority greenbelts by the Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District. The final acreage will be determined through the public process. Lands around Penngrove and Cloverdale will also be considered.
The supervisors agreed to modify some of the policies including the “commercial development” loophole that has allowed several community separators to shrink.