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To the Editor,

The Sonoma Valley Democrats recently voted to urge the county and state to keep the Sonoma Developmental Center (SDC) property in public hands through a community special district or trust, such as the Glen Ellen Historical Society has proposed to the state’s Department of General Services.

It makes perfect sense for the Sonoma County Planning Commission to add text to the SDC Specific Plan stating that maintaining the SDC lands in public community control through a community special district or trust is considered a priority. Such a statement about public ownership as an alternative to private ownership would be consistent with the Specific Plan, the wishes of the community, and the intention of state legislation.

During the recent public hearing on the SDC Specific Plan, Planning Commissioners Greg Carr and Eric Koenigshofer suggested revisions to the open space policies in the SDC Specific Plan to ensure that the open space will be parkland and transferred to county or state parks or other public or nonprofit organizations; and that the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District may hold the land in a conservation easement until that is done. It is hard to understand why other commissioners, along with staff and county counsel, opposed the revisions, leaving the open space in limbo and the potential for private developers to take ownership.

When it comes to housing, the number of housing units slated for the SDC are completely arbitrary, other than the focus on possible developer profits. The state has not mandated maximum build-out and the county is meeting its state housing allocations without the SDC. As Commissioner Carr pointed out, no other Specific Plan in the county “ensures” developer profits. The commissioners should listen to the experts in the community who have proposed 450 or fewer units.

After the last public hearing, it was very hard to fathom how certain commissioners, along with staff and county counsel, not to mention consultants, seem to be putting their personal preferences, beliefs, and political alliances above all when discussing the SDC. At times it seemed that the discussion was a battle of the wills between individuals trying to get the upper hand. The public comment seems to be totally dismissed by all but two commissioners — and the two that have the most expertise in land use, general plans, specific plans, and the history of policy in Sonoma County.

The Planning Commission, staff, and county counsel must put aside personal and political biases and instead revise the Specific Plan to align with the land and community, and allow everyone to get behind it, instead of continuing the adversarial approach that seems to be for no good reason. More than 1,200 people and groups who submitted comments about the SDC plan to the county can’t all be wrong.

Teri Shore Sonoma