The View from the Valley
By Linda Hale, board member, Valley of the Moon Alliance
What do Sonoma, Marin, and Santa Clara counties have in common? They all have preserved open spaces that protect natural landscapes and promote agriculture. Sonoma County has long-established Urban Growth Boundaries and we all enjoy the benefits of Community Separator designations that have been in place for 20 years. Besides the Glen Ellen-Agua Caliente Community Separator, we enjoy the view across from Oakmont on the northeastern side of Highway 12 as we head west out of Kenwood. That length of Highway 12 is protected from high density use since it is a designated Community Separator. But it’s not just the view that’s protected.
Throughout the County, over 17,000 acres are protected from the sprawl of shopping malls, gas stations, and high density housing. Community Separators function as rural open space to separate cities and other communities. The Sonoma County General Plan states that they are there “to provide city and community identity by providing visual relief from continuous urbanization.” We live in a valley that is being stressed by commuter traffic and development on rural land. We risk losing the open space and the vistas that recharge our spirit. And they can also serve as water recharge areas. These designated areas can and do currently support farms and agriculture that benefit the local economy.
Voters back in the 1980s had the foresight to back proposals from such organizations as the Greenbelt Alliance and Sonoma County Conservation Action to help shape the rules that govern growth. Rural areas that were adjacent to cities were targets for sprawl. A measure was placed on the ballot and 70 percent voted to protect some of the designated areas between cities from being rezoned for greater density without a county-wide vote. The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors has been the steward of that agreement for 20 years. It is now time to renew as well as look at additional areas that could benefit from protection. The Sonoma County Open Space and Agricultural Preservation District has identified several areas in Sonoma Valley and around the County as “priority greenbelts.” Farms and grasslands between Sonoma and Petaluma along Highway 116 are identified in the 2020 General Plan as priorities for community separator designation. We are also looking at Highway 12 to the south toward Sonoma and north to Kenwood and along the Arnold Drive corridor for possible future inclusions as community separators.
Valley of the Moon Alliance (VOTMA) and local organizations are working to get a renewal measure on the November 2016 ballot. Your voice counts and we urge you to contact all our County Supervisors via email or a letter. Check out the sample letter on our new Facebook page or at www.greenbelt.org/actions/renew-sonoma-county-greenbelt-protections/. This is an opportunity to take a step to protect open space for the long term. This issue is on the agenda for the Board of Supervisor’s meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 15 at 10:30 a.m. in the Supervisors Chambers.
VOTMA is also supporting the Green Belt Alliance in their efforts to have growth occur within existing city boundaries and in creative, new ways that will create thriving, climate-friendly neighborhoods that reduce impacts on the environment.
Along those lines, citizens can attend the upcoming public workshop on “events at wineries,” the issue championed by VOTMA and discussed at the Sonoma County Winery Working Group, on Nov. 16 at the Glaser Center, 547 Mendocino Ave., in Santa Rosa from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Check our website, Facebook page, or www.sonoma-county.org/prmd/docs/wineryevents/.
VOTMA is planning a local gathering to celebrate our supporters. Watch for the announcement and join us in January 2016 to celebrate the New Year and our unique community and valley.
The Valley of the Moon Alliance was formed to promote the preservation, protection and maintenance of the agricultural character, natural resources and rural beauty of Sonoma Valley. We are committed to providing a forum for research, information, education and recommendations on projects that affect the environmental qualities of the valley communities.