Grading and excavations underway at Kenwood Ranch
SEPTEMBER 15, 2021
VOTMA seeks a permit review since Glass Fire burned trees that blocked view of future buildings
By Jay Gamel
While the Yucaipa Group, new owners of the resort property at the former Graywood Ranch, now known as Kenwood Ranch, is happy to have begun grading and excavation for their future building sites, Roger Peters, a director of the Valley of the Moon Alliance (VOTMA), asked Permit Sonoma on July 23 to review the building grading permit applications to consider the diminished screening required by the project’s original, extensive Environmental Impact Report (EIR).
The 2020 Glass Fire burned an unknown but high percentage of the 21,000 existing trees over the entire 180-acre property, mostly Douglas fir and bay trees. The trees were counted as part of an exhaustive EIR prepared in 2004. Many of those burned trees have been removed, with many more to be felled and chipped. The combination resort, winery, and restaurant’s final EIR initially allowed for the removal of 183 trees within the project’s 50+ acres.
The 2004 EIR states, “From a visual perspective, … the thinning process had cleared out the brush and much of the small, lower-growing trees, but left nearly all of the larger trees. This preserved the ability of the trees to screen future development and maintain some of the habitat values the larger trees provide wildlife while still reducing the fire hazard associated with existing conditions.” The EIR also concluded that no mitigation would be needed to lessen the project’s visual impacts specifically because of the existing extensive tree screening. In a July 23 letter addressed to Permit Sonoma director Tennis Wick, Peters wrote: “The studies that supported the grading plan submitted last year appear to have been completed prior to the date that the Glass Fire burned the project site to a crisp. In view of the current massive dead tree status of the site, the prior representations by the Applicant that the forest/tree canopy on the project site would screen the project from Highway 12 in this known scenic corridor, and the prior decision by the Board of Supervisors to approve the project with that condition, among others, in place, seem open to revision. Was a post-Glass Fire revision of the grading plan required by Permit Sonoma to reflect the changed conditions, and if not, why not?”
Peters requested the same information again on Sept. 6, noting that at least one grading permit was issued on Aug. 30.
Those questions have not been answered.
“I don’t have a reply or formal response to VOTMA’s inquiry at this time,” Supervising Planner Hanna Spencer replied to Peters on Friday afternoon, Sept. 10. She did assert that “the resort project is vested and Permit Sonoma is processing related development permits in accordance with required project conditions of approval.”
Meanwhile, the grading continues.