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VOTMA update – resort is moving forward

You may have noticed increased activity up on the old Graywood Ranch property opposite Lawndale Road, on the western face of Mt. Hood. That activity reflects the Kenwood Ranch LLC preparation to initiate construction of the Kenwood Ranch Resort (Inn, Spa, and Restaurant). The Resort project is now owned by Ron Burkle, a wealthy real estate developer and food chain magnate. Burkle’s Yucaipa Companies acquired the Resort project a month before the 2020 Glass fire devastated the surrounding forest area. That forest was expected and intended to provide screening of the high-end development from Highway 12 view under the original approvals.

Kenwood Ranch LLC is now attempting to obtain the building permits for the Resort.

To date the owners have been less than transparent on the extent of damage to the site and the extent to which the conditions of approval appended to the use permit that require it to maintain the forest screening have been or are capable of being maintained.

For its part, Permit Sonoma has been uninterested in pursuing that question. It has not requested a postfire arborist report like the one provided by Kenwood Ranch’s predecessor, Tohigh Investment Properties, after the Nunn’s Canyon fire in 2017. They have not asked the new owner what its plans are for reforesting and screening the Resort property from Highway 12.

Kenwood Ranch has already removed some trees from the property under an emergency removal permit and may be preparing to remove a significant number of the remaining trees in anticipation of receiving building permits for the Resort.

Any significant removal of dead or damaged trees from the western flank of the property will expose the Resort, once constructed, visually from Highway 12 and the Oakmont area.

As exposed, at night the Resort quite possibly will resemble a noticeable lightbulb in the northwest portion of Sonoma Valley, just below Mt Hood.

VOTMA has been asking Permit Sonoma to take a closer look at the impacts of the Glass fire for a year now with no success. VOTMA appealed Permit Sonoma’s determination in May that the planning conditions of approval, including the tree screening maintenance conditions, have been satisfied. That determination is a precondition for issuance of building permits.

Permit Sonoma summarily rejected VOTMA’s appeal on the basis that the approvals required were merely ministerial checklist actions that are not subject to review. VOTMA has now appealed that rejection to the Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) and has also formally petitioned it to review this matter.

Under the Resort’s enabling use permit, the BZA has the authority to review whether conditions of approval have been met. If you care about retaining the view from Sonoma Valley along Highway 12 and holding Kenwood Ranch responsible for preserving the screening that will avoid the Resort from being a new, prominent and out of character addition to the Kenwood Valley Scenic Corridor, you should contact Permit Sonoma and the BZA and ask that a review of the Glass fire impacts on the Resort design vision be looked into while there is still time for these issues to be studied.

Please direct your comments to [email protected]

Jay Gamel, Roger Peters and Chris Koch of the Valley of the Moon Association (VOTMA) Board of Directors, Kenwood