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Belden Barns environmental review questioned

At a recent Board of Supervisors meeting, some residents of Sonoma Mountain Road challenged the findings and analysis of a Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) prepared for the Belden Barns winery and creamery project.
The Belden Barns development proposal, the first of its kind on Sonoma Mountain Road, is asking the county for a use permit for a facility that would process 10,000 cases of wine and 10,000 pounds of cheese. There would be public retail sales and by appointment tastings, and eight agricultural promotional events a year with 60-200 attendees.
Current structures on the property would be torn down, and 15,851 square feet of new buildings would be constructed – a production facility, tasting room, and employee housing unit.
The 55-acre property is located at 5561 Sonoma Mountain Road, about one and a half miles east of the Pressley Road/Sonoma Mountain Road intersection.
The voluminous DEIR concluded that any environmental impacts could be reduced to a “less than significant level” with the implementation of mitigation measures, a finding that speakers at the July 19 Board of Supervisors meeting took issue with.
Specifically, speakers said that no efforts could mitigate the road safety issues on Sonoma Mountain Road, a 7.5-mile, two-lane road that is narrow and windy in places, and considered one of the worst roads in Sonoma County.
In addition, some speakers questioned the hydrology analysis of the DEIR and whether it accurately represented the project’s impacts on nearby water sources.
Also discussed by the public and board was the DEIR’s analysis of alternatives to the project as proposed, including eliminating the tasting room or having it be off-site, such as in Santa Rosa or Rohnert Park. Another alternative under review is one that eliminates the events component.
Throughout the entire time since the Belden Barns first filed their use permit request in 2012, a number of neighbors have been concerned about future development in the Sonoma Mountain Road area if Belden Barns was approved. Those concerns were voiced again at the July 19 hearing.
“Please keep in mind there are 16 vineyards in the immediate area that are in line to follow the Beldens,” said Donna Parker, who lives right across from Belden Barns. “And why not? They can make more money right where they are. So the precedent setting nature of this proposal cannot be ignored.”
The hearing on the DEIR was held to receive oral comments on the document. County planners and an environmental consultant have been receiving written comments as well. The next step involves responding to all the comments and bringing a final EIR back in front of the Board of Supervisor, who at that time will consider the overall merits of the project as well, likely this Fall.
That hearing will mark the second time the Board of Supervisors has been asked to approve the Belden Barns Project. By a 4-1 vote in November of 2014, the board approved the project. First District Supervisor Susan Gorin voted against issuing the use permit.
A group of Sonoma Mountain road residents, the Friends of Sonoma Mountain, soon filed a lawsuit against the county. In June of 2015, a settlement was reached, which required that an EIR be conducted. The settlement set aside the board’s initial approval of the project and dismissed the lawsuit “with prejudice,” a legal term barring Friends of Sonoma Mountain from suing again on the same claims.
Source: The Kenwood Press – Belden Barns environmental review questioned

Posted on Categories Land Use, Local OrganizationsTags , , , Leave a comment on New county park on Sonoma Mountain offers miles of trails

New county park on Sonoma Mountain offers miles of trails

Sonoma County’s latest gem of a park opens Saturday on the north face of Sonoma Mountain, affording visitors miles of new trails and stunning views rarely seen by the general public.
PDF map of North Sonoma Mountain
About 2 miles along the park’s new main trail, the forest thins to reveal a 180-degree view of northern Sonoma Valley and the Santa Rosa Plain. On a clear morning this week, a number of prominent landmarks were visible in the distance, including Sugarloaf Ridge State Park, Hood Mountain and Mount St. Helena.North Sonoma Mountain’s New Park
Almost as astounding, reaching this vantage point at an elevation of about 2,000 feet did not require strenuous effort, thanks to the cleverly designed trail, which weaves across the diverse landscape at a relatively modest incline.
Planners of what officially is known as the North Sonoma Mountain Regional Park and Open Space Preserve hail the 820-acre site as a model of ingenuity and collaboration among public and private entities. The preserve, located about 3 miles up Sonoma Mountain Road from Bennett Valley Road, abuts Jack London State Historic Park in Glen Ellen, offering hikers, runners and equestrians unfettered access to both outdoor settings.
Connecting parks in such seamless fashion is considered the “holy grail” of park planning, said Bill Keene, general manager of the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District.
via New county park on Sonoma Mountain offers miles | The Press Democrat.

Posted on Categories Land UseTags , , Leave a comment on Judge sides with neighbors in Sonoma Mountain access dispute

Judge sides with neighbors in Sonoma Mountain access dispute

Advocates of public access to Petaluma’s Lafferty Ranch could be facing a legal setback.
In a tentative ruling last week, Sonoma County Judge Elliot Daum said the city of Petaluma and a citizens group have no legal standing to enforce a county road easement over private property to the public open space on Sonoma Mountain.
And Daum said the city has not proven the 270-acre parcel bought more than a half-century ago is actually landlocked, pointing to an old water facility easement that leads to the area. If his ruling becomes final, the city would be allowed to amend some of its claims but co-plaintiffs from the Friends of Lafferty Park will be forced out of the lawsuit.
The judge heard oral arguments from both sides after issuing his initial findings Tuesday. He then took the matter under submission.
“We’re very happy with the tentative ruling,” said Santa Rosa attorney Les Perry, who represents adjacent property owners, including Kimberly Pfendler and the Bettman-Tavernetti family.
Perry said settlement talks would continue regardless of the final outcome.
Matt Maguire of Friends of Lafferty Park expressed disappointment. The former Petaluma councilman said the city would continue the fight without his group and ask the county to join in.
“That would be a slam-dunk,” Maguire said. “We’ve been asking them for a long time.”
Read more via Judge sides with neighbors in Lafferty Ranch dispute | The Press Democrat.