View from the Valley
by Rick Hill, Valley of the Moon Alliance
As the cleanup and healing continues in fire-ravaged Sonoma County, Valley of the Moon Alliance (VOTMA) remains vigilant and focused on numerous projects, challenges and proposals in our area. Here is a status update of some issues we are following closely.
The Resort at The Sonoma Country Inn (formerly known as Sonoma Country Inn): In 2017, following the BZA's approval of the Resort's latest redesign, VOTMA filed an appeal with the Board of Supervisors. We have not visited the site firsthand, however we understand from reports commissioned by the applicant and filed with PRMD, that topography around the Resort site suffered varying degrees of fire damage and impacts. The public hearing has been scheduled for Tuesday, March 27 at 8:45 a.m.
VJB Cellars: After being unanimously rejected by Sonoma Valley Citizens Advisory Commission in June 2017, and months of subsequent delay, the application to revise VJB's Conditional Use Permit has been finalized. Among other things, it seeks to legalize numerous non-conforming conditions and operations, as well as to remove the original requirements for a right-turn-lane pocket on Shaw Avenue and a left-turn/refuge-lane on Highway 12. The current cut-off date for comments to PRMD is March 15, while the hearing has yet to be scheduled. Among other concerns, VOTMA opposes removal of original Use Permit's turn-lane conditions that were tied to “events” because current peak season business at VJB is equivalent to hosting numerous “events” every week. VJB's revised application can be viewed at our “on the radar” tab at www.votma.org.
Kenwood Vineyards: A BZA hearing to evaluate a new tasting room and events permission was continued. Commissioners seek more complete data with respect to traffic and visual impacts. VOTMA and others look forward to reviewing the County of Sonoma's focused Sonoma Valley Traffic Study. The county collected the requisite traffic data last summer. However, due to the resignation of its traffic engineer, the final study remains on hold. VOTMA will pay keen attention to this long anticipated study to ensure it fulfills the county's commitment to include traffic impacts from all sources, including projects “in the pipeline.”
Sonoma Developmental Center: A Community Advisory Committee will convene on March 22 to continue broad-based discussions on stakeholders' interests and concerns as follow-up to meetings held in September 2017. Representatives from VOTMA will be on hand, and a public update session is expected this May, with a date yet to be determined.
Groundwater quality and sustainability: At VOTMA's January meeting, John Roney from Sugarloaf Ridge State Park and Marc Newhouser from Sonoma Ecology Center (SEC) shared successes and challenges of post-fire watershed protection. Their efforts have been remarkable, yet a lot of work remains to adequately manage erosion and protect water quality. SEC has proven itself essential to the health and resilience of our valley and watersheds, so we strongly encourage community support for their mission.
Please visit our website www.votma.org to view pertinent information, documents and comments on these and other issues affecting the Valley of the Moon.
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.