PUBLIC COMMENTS & MEETINGS

Reports from the Timber Cove 9/14/15 meeting with Permit and Resource Management Staff to discuss the Coastal Plan

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Read S.W.i.G’s comments here!

By Reuben Weinzveg, Sebastopol, Preserve Rural Sonoma County:

Attended by well over 100 people.  99% supportive of more protections for the Coastal Region.

Main points delivered by the public attendees to the PRMD staff:

Coast is a special and fragile place and should be protected and not lumped into the lack of protections in the General Plan 2020, as proposed by the PRMD staff.

Vineyards and Wineries should be separated from Agriculture language in the LCP, they are very different and have very different impacts on environment.

 

Classify Wineries as Industrial, not agriculture.

 

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Read SCCA’s comments here!

PRMD admitted that it had not presented any of the Ag elements to the previous three community meetings.  They actually revised their power point presentation for this meeting in response to letters from the public in the last month.

 

PRMD staff keeps harping on the fact that they are just trying to integrate the General Plan 2020 into the LCP and are somewhat resistant to understanding that the Coast needs to have its own protections and should not be lumped together with the inland areas.  They asked for folks to write for specific changes that they would suggest to PRMD draft and what is delivered to the Planning Commission.

 

Read Richard Charter's letter here!

Read Richard Charter’s comments here!

Takeaway:  We need to keep up the pressure and write lots of comments to be forwarded to Supervisors, PRMD and California Coastal Commission.  We did staff attention to the dissatisfaction with the Draft LCP – Ag element, but they need to be pressured to write our recommendations into the draft LCP and into their inclusion of public comments that are forwarded to the Planning Commission.

 

Ken Sund, Jenner, Wine and Water Watch, www.winewaterwatch.org

Although the meeting at the packed, “standing room only”, Timber Cove Fire station was supposed to be about the whole Local Coastal Plan update, the focus and reason most of the attendees were there had to do with the growing (percieved or real) encroachment of the wine industry upon our coast.

 

Jenner was represented by four longtime members of our community. The ladies presenting and representing the county PRMD had experience with contentious crowds and were ready for this one. They were challenged by many knowledgeable citizens in the audience, including the most forceful former supervisor Ernie Carpenter who, as a supervisor, had been at ground zero of drafting the last coastal plan and had exact institutional memory of it’s evolution and language.

 

 I had developed some questions and comments but had to compete with 1/2 of the room to get them heard.  It seemed like the New York stock exchange in that so many people were raising their hands at the same time and fighting for audience and attention. And the hard challenges to the presentation although civil and on the edge of respectful, put the county officials on the defensive.

 

Basically- and in part due to the news articles & flyers discussing the “Our Coast is Threatened”, the people who showed up are opposed to allowing development and expension of the wine industry in our coastal hills. Although the presenters said the language of the original coastal plan has not been changed to facilitate the permitting of ag conversion to grapes then tasting rooms and wineries, it exists all over the language I read in the Land Use Element section which is the only section I’ve read so far.

 

The local residents are right in telling the county that the coast is not appropriate for the big money investment schemes that potentially can move in. The Coastal Hills Rural Preservation organization fought the development of Lester Swartz’ Fort Ross Winery and are currently challenging the industrial Rana Ling publishing facility and housing expansion. I didn’t see much love for the Fort Ross winery in that room. I see wineries as industrial processing plants, not the warm and fuzzy agricultural tourism the county allows to take hold on the scenic nooks and crannys of our county, disrupting the quality of life of longtime residents.

 

The narrow rural roads, limited emergency services, potential for catastrophic fire and scenic beauty are being impacted now by bicycle tourism and if the county allows the expansion wineries, tasting rooms, event centers under the so called “agricultural tourism” being promoted in their coastal plan, it will negatively alter the quality of life for coastal residents and wildlife. The water grab for grapes was discussed. There is limited water in those hills and pumping it onto grapes will further deplete the aquifer or local creeks and the Gualala watershed.

 

I think the message the presenters will take back to their bosses, the supervisors, will be clear coming out of this meeting: The coastal hills and surrounding area locals are going to fight to take out any language that makes it easier for the wine industry to get permits to expand into their area. A proposal was made to separate viticulture from agriculture and make it play by a different set of rules.

 

It was clear to me that there is an articulate, experienced and committed group that is ready to fiercely oppose winery expansion into our coast. I’m ready to work with them and encourage my Jenner and larger community to stay informed and do the same.

 

Preserve Rural Sonoma County had placed informational flyers on the seats with suggestions for on “What You Can Do” and website links. This was useful.

 

Missing at the meeting were the corresponding county representative of this area, Supervisor Carrillo and his appointee to the planning dept., Tom Lynch.