The Kenwood Press
Guest Editor: 01/15/2014

Valley of the Moon Alliance 2013 report



By Kathy Pons

The calendar year of 2013 has come to a close and we are looking forward to the new year. First of all, the Valley of the Moon Alliance (VOTMA) board would like to extend to you our best wishes for 2014.

VOTMA promotes the preservation, protection and maintenance of the agricultural character, natural resources and rural beauty of the valley.

Our first quarterly meeting of the year will be on Wednesday, Jan. 15, at 7 p.m. at the Kenwood Depot.

We will have updates on the issues we are currently working on and our plans for 2014. Below are some of the issues we have been working on.

The expansion of the Sonoma Valley Citizens Advisory Commission (SVCAC)

The proposed boundary expansion area extends from Sonoma Creek where it crosses the highway in Kenwood (which is the current boundary), to Pythian Road, including areas along Lawndale Road as well. With final approval of the City of Sonoma and the County Board of Supervisors, it should ensure that citizens of the Sonoma Valley watershed have a forum for our neighborhood concerns.

The proposal would also mean that each commissioner represents a local area, and each commissioner is the ideal initial “go-to” person to contact with concerns about your neighborhood. These concerns could be traffic congestion, too much commercial influence within a residential area, or areas of lower water tables. Since the commissioners are familiar with their areas, they will have a better insight when discretionary projects come up before them. They can provide essential advice to the applicant and the county process.

VOTMA supports the SVCAC as a valuable forum for the residents of Sonoma Valley.

Congestion of Highway 12 between Pythian and Melita roads

This area is in a unique situation where one side of the highway is Oakmont and under the jurisdiction of the City of Santa Rosa, and the other side is zoned “rural residential and other,” meaning unincorporated land under the jurisdiction of the County. Oakmont residents enter and exit the highway at the signal lights at Pythian Road and Oakmont Drive only. Residents of the county land often have to navigate long lines of cars to get in and out of their driveways.

If you travel that roadway, you probably already have a sense of how many cars travel that section now. In the near future, there will be additional traffic from projects that have already been approved but not yet built. These projects include three wineries, a dog boarding kennel, 36 new homes in Oakmont, and the large Elnoka project near Melita Road.

We have a sub-committee working on this issue with Supervisor Susan Gorin and Jason Nutt, Deputy Director of Transportation and Operations. VOTMA wants to support a viable transportation avenue through this already congested area, as it is the northern gateway to Sonoma Valley.

Number and kind of events at wineries on agricultural zoned lands

This is a complex issue of wineries doing more direct sales through tasting, tourism, and hosting events that can be marginally related to agriculture. The County's General Plan 2020 states that winery events, etc., are to be secondary and ancillary to agricultural production. There is no way yet to keep this in check. We have tried to limit the number of events approved at the time of the use permit application. There are no clear definitions for the kinds of events that are acceptable. VOTMA representatives have been invited to a meeting with Supervisor Susan Gorin, her two planning commissioners, a couple of the SVCAC commissioners for our area and a few others to discuss this subject on Jan. 17.

VOTMA wants to support agriculture and the lands needed, without having to flood rural areas with tourists. There may be better places to sell wine than out in the middle of our agricultural zoned lands.

Event Coordinator Calendar

The Event Coordinator Calendar is supposed to be a program to track how many events happen on the same day throughout Sonoma Valley, as a method to plan ahead and prevent traffic jams, excess noise, etc. A contract was given to the Sonoma Valley Visitors Bureau in 2011 to create and promote this calendar. Check out their website for the calendar and to submit your events: www.sonomavalley.com/sonoma-valley-event-calendar.html.

However, this program, as implemented, leaves a lot to be desired in fulfilling the program as outlined in the General Plan 2020. VOTMA will be following the development of this calendar and its relationship with the county permit department. Eventually, the number and distribution of events on this calendar will be used during the permit process to help decide the number of events that may be included in a new winery use permit.

There are a few other issues, like the Ledson Winery, that we haven't covered, but we hope you can get a feel for what we were doing last year. We receive notification from the county of any new discretionary applications of concern in our area, so the board tries to keep abreast of new projects coming out. We really need someone to help keep our website current and our membership informed - a good goal for 2014. Any volunteers?

We, the VOTMA board members, want to thank you for your concern and care for living in this beautiful Sonoma Valley.

Happy 2014!

Sincerely,

Kathy Pons, Del Rydman, Mark Donahoe, Jay Gamel, Linda Hale, and Jim Gilmore