Resort update and other news
Valley of the Moon Alliance (VOTMA)
By Rick Hill for the Valley of the Moon Alliance
The Resort at the Sonoma Country Inn, the proposal that kick-started Valley of the Moon Alliance (VOTMA) 15 years ago, has cleared another hurdle. After buildout, this destination resort will sit on over 50 spectacular acres. It will include an inn, comprising 50 guest rooms in 17 separate cottages, a lap pool and terrace for lodging guests, a public spa with gym and retail space, treatment rooms, pools, a public restaurant with retail, bar/lounge facilities, rooftop terrace bar, support structures, and 102 parking spaces. Access will be via Campagna Lane in the heart of the valley. Future plans include 11 residential estate properties, in addition to a winery, tasting room and events center on the valley floor, subject to future permitting.
At the Aug. 3 Planning Commission hearing, VOTMA appealed the Design Review Committee's October 2016 decision that the latest design was consistent with the original permission, vested in 2007. Commissioners voted unanimously that the 2007 vested entitlements gave them no choice but to deny VOTMA's appeal.
Most of VOTMA's concerns and recommendations, presented in person, as well as in writing in advance of the hearing, were ignored. Consequently, VOTMA will appeal the Planning Commission's decision.
Due to its prominent location above the valley floor at the base of Hood Mountain, VOTMA has endeavored to reduce the resort's impacts. It's clear that efforts have paid off in some respects. If developed, it will be subject to a long list of conditions governing water use, lighting, noise, tree removal, etc. We extend overdue thanks to volunteers Del Rydman, Karl Keener, Claire Sapiro, Kathy Pons, Jay Gamel and others for their steadfast dedication to preserving Sonoma Valley. And the work continues.
In May, VOTMA responded to a waiver of public hearing posting at Cornerstone Sonoma. The proposed Jack London Taproom sought a waiver of hearing for a conditional use permit under the guise that the new taproom would merely operate within “existing facilities.” This rang hollow. We believe that the application will generate a significant increase in traffic and in quantity of alcohol consumed, in part due to expanded hours of service (from 10 a.m. to midnight). The previous wine tasting rooms at the facility closed at 5 p.m.
In response to our request, a public hearing will be held to address potential impacts of this new Taproom. It would help matters if county planners were realistic when it comes to 'existing facilities.' The Permit and Resource Management Department (PRMD) should waive public hearings when appropriate, but not when waivers provide cover for incremental expansion.
In contrast, Palooza GastroPub in Kenwood Village applied to PRMD for a use permit modification to install a beer fermenting tank. VOTMA considered their proposal, discussed operational changes with owner Jeff Tyler, and noted our long-term concerns over parking. Ultimately, VOTMA conditionally supports their modification. We appreciate that Palooza is trying to be above-board, and wish all business owners would follow their example. Instead of concealing intentions, the Tylers requested permission for what they seek. In the end, the community benefits when local businesses are good neighbors.
Sonoma Developmental Center
In mid-July, we participated in a stakeholders' interview regarding the future of Sonoma Developmental Center (SDC). Wallace Roberts and Todd is the firm conducting the draft resource assessment of the SDC property, including a thorough evaluation and inputs from many quarters. The transition is in its infancy, but our “interview” provided some confidence that Eldridge will not become a for-profit equestrian facility and golf course, as some have speculated. Stay tuned!
Save the date
Every couple of years, VOTMA hosts a community gathering and fundraiser. Our next one will be Saturday, Sept. 23, at Kenwood Plaza Park, so please save the date. With the support of Colleen and Steve Rose from the sorely missed Vineyards Inn, we will welcome the Maria Carrillo High School Culinary Program's incredible new food truck, from noon to 4 p.m. Enjoy a triple-choice burger bar with all the fixings, along with live jazz, information tables, and a silent auction featuring original art by Sonoma County treasures Micah Schwaberow and Bob Nixon among others. Tickets will be available at the Kenwood Press and at brownpapertickets.com. We hope to see you all there!
Please keep in touch via our website, VOTMA.org, which provides background information and status of current projects.
Editor's Note: This column has been changed to reflect that Palooza applied for a use permit modification to install a to install a beer fermenting tank. The column previously called it a "brewing facility," which is not correct.