Kenwood Press

Serving the communities of Kenwood, Glen Ellen and Oakmont

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News: 02/01/2010

VOTMA 2009 update

During the last eight years, Valley of the Moon Alliance (VOTMA) has devoted itself to representing the community on issues that affect our beautiful, unique valley and those who live in it now and for generations to come.

We are still committed to our Vision: Promoting the preservation, protection and maintenance of the agricultural character, natural resources and rural beauty of the valley. We have also been steadfastly dedicated to our Mission; “… to provide a forum for research, information, education and recommendations on projects that affect the environmental qualities of the Valley communities.”

The Executive and Steering Committees have continued working in conjunction with several local and state-wide organizations to assure that our elected officials are paying attention to such timely and demanding issues as proposed developments, events, Sonoma Valley ground water management plans, global warming, traffic safety on rural highways, and preservation of community separators and open space. VOTMA members researched issues, wrote letters, attended meetings, and presented testimony at a number of public meetings. VOTMA continued to be involved throughout the 2020 General Plan process, which has now been adopted by the Board of Supervisors. But before the changes can be implemented, ordinances must be drafted and approved. While we did not get some of things we advocated, significant improvements were made in a number of areas. Ultimately the General Plan will be as good as the decision makers who have the ultimate responsibility to enforce it.

Our website has been redone. Please let us know if you see anything we can change, add or delete. We are constantly updating the website with memos, articles, maps and issues that we are currently addressing and have covered over the last couple of years. Our goal is to have a useful, updated and historic website in 2010. We would like a more interactive, responsive website at Due to other time commitments of our website savvy volunteers, this is taking much longer than we had hoped. Anyone who would like to be involved in development and maintenance of our website, please get in touch.

The Sonoma Valley Groundwater Management Program is continuing to be developed and implemented. Kathy Pons, a current VOTMA board member, continues to represent VOTMA and residential well owners on the Basin Water Advisory Panel and the Sonoma County Water Coalition. She and others are considering a well owners’ group that can have a greater voice on county policy changes that may impact individual well owners. Individual well owners are currently under-represented at the policy forming level. If you are a well owner and are concerned about any changes in county policies that may impact your well water, give us a call at 833-6695. We continue to learn, inform and participate in the water conservation efforts throughout the county.

Since our inception in December 2001, we have continued to reach out to other organizations and supported the creation of county-wide coalitions with groups sharing similar concerns. A great deal of our time is devoted to reviewing and monitoring numerous proposed developments. We seek out proposed projects in their early planning stage which enables us to work with developers and planners in providing community input from the ground up which helps create a better project. As with many things in life, early detection is critical and we urge you to contact VOTMA as you learn of a planned project which might negatively impact the area.

VOTMA is still concerned about the number of new winery production and tourist event facilities that have been approved, the potential abuse of events, and their impacts on our rural communities. VOTMA published a report in 2004, “Choices for the Future –the Potential for Events Facilities on Ag Lands.” The report will be added to our new Website soon. Read the two-page executive summary and table for a scary look at the possible impacts development could have on the Sonoma Valley. Ask yourself how many new wineries are being developed in our Valley, how many can we support considering traffic, water, waste, and events. What is your vision for Sonoma Valley?

VOTMA and Oakmont are concerned about the concentration of production and tourist event facilities across from the main entrance to Oakmont. Currently there are grapes planted for Annadel Vineyards Winery, a 50,000-case winery, tasting, events, tours, and caves on 37.4 acres. The Flower Company currently has 10 events and has requested to add a winery in phases and increase events. Also approved are the Mobius-Painter, LLC, proposals for a 125,000-case winery with 20 events on 15 acres. There is also a wholesale grapevine business in the area. The Oakmont main entrance is also planned to be developed with homes and commercial business. VOTMA feels that the concentration of projects is too great and the impact on traffic and water is huge.

The Wolf House Condo Hotel at Jack London Square in Glen Ellen is still waiting for funding by owners for a Draft EIR. VOTMA has the same concerns expressed in last year’s annual report.

We never received a response to our questions about the Chauvet Hotel renting their units out by the night/weeks. This is not what the county approved in their use permit.

We continue to encourage Supervisor Brown to focus on events and develop a comprehensive program to monitor, control, enforce and schedule event activity. While she was finally able to convince her colleagues on the Board to approve on a trial basis an Events Coordinator position in the Sonoma Valley, it remains to be seen if that program will actually be funded and implemented. There has been an alarming increase in the number and frequency of abusive event activity in transient property rentals; i.e., private residences in rural areas being rented out oftentimes by absentee owners to what turns out to be weekend party houses. Far too often the owners are turning these residences into special event centers for profit without regard to the impact on the rural character of this community and the terrible effect it has on the neighbors. The Sheriff’s office is severely limited in its ability to deal with this kind of activity.

Responsible neighbors and VOTMA have raised the issue and Supervisor Brown has led the effort to develop a method to control, monitor and enforce abusive rental activity. This is currently being developed, and the first pass at an approach has been presented to the Board of Supervisors. Additional work needs to be completed.

VOTMA was formed to provide an ongoing focal point for public concerns about changes that will affect the communities of the Sonoma Valley. In the beginning, we proposed that ongoing operations should be funded by family contributions each year of $100. Please show your support for VOTMA’s ongoing Mission and Vision, by sending your tax-deductible contribution today. (P.O. Box 95, Kenwood, CA 95452.)

We are always looking for new ideas and new members; people who are interested and concerned about the future of our community and willing to step forward to become a part of VOTMA’s leadership. If you do not, who will?

Thank you for your ongoing support!

Valley of the Moon Alliance (VOTMA) Board of Directors: Mark Donahoe, Jay Gamel, Nigel Hall, Kathy Pons, Del Rydman, Philip Sales.

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