The Kenwood Press
News: 11/15/2016

Glen Ellen continues local control conversation

Alec Peters

Glen Ellen residents continued talking about ways to have a unified voice on important issues facing the community, concerns prompted by the feeling that demographic changes and the county’s burgeoning tourist economy are overwhelming the ability for the town to exert any local control.

A get-together on Nov. 7 was the second such “meet and greet” meeting, an evening session to accommodate those who could not attend an afternoon event in October. Over 40 people came to the meeting, held in the multipurpose room at Dunbar Elementary School.

Jim Shere, executive director of the Glen Ellen Historical Society, and Leslie Vaughn, president of the Glen Ellen Village Fair, facilitated the meeting.

Glen Ellen’s residents have seen a lot of change in recent years due to a drop in population, and the increase in home sales to people who do not live in Glen Ellen full time, which often creates challenges for local institutions such as the Glen Ellen Fire Department and Dunbar School.

According to U.S. Census statistics, in 2000 nearly 88 percent of Glen Ellen homes were occupied by full-time residents. By 2014, that number had dropped to 55 percent.

Discussion topics at the meeting included noise, continuing problems with vacation rentals, the lack of affordable housing, issues at the Glen Ellen Post Office, the need to financially assist Dunbar School and the fire department, speeding through town, and creating pedestrian friendly rights of way, just to name some.

What much of this comes down to is funding to address issues that the Glen Ellen community decides to tackle, how possibly to create a legal entity that might capture taxes of some kind, and what the risks associated with that would be.

Those in attendance spoke of potentially creating a Community Improvement District, or the possibility of capturing some of the property taxes residents pay, or whether or not the town might be able to receive some of the county’s transient occupancy tax (TOT) to help infrastructure impacted by the fact that Glen Ellen is becoming more and more a tourist destination.

“We need to create a voice,” said Shere. “Discuss some way that is appropriate to be self-governing.”

Stephen Gale, district representative for Congressman Mike Thompson in Thompson’s Santa Rosa office, attended the meeting, and lauded the town’s grass roots activity.

“This discussion is really heartening,” said Gale. “I applaud you.”

The next meeting is scheduled for Monday, Dec. 5, 7 p.m. at Dunbar School. At that meeting, groups will go into break-out sessions to talk about topics more specifically.