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Sebastappeal - December - Sarah Gurney


Sebastappeal - December - Sarah Gurney

by Sarah Glade Gurney

By Guest Columnist Patrick Slayter

Beginnings and endings; I began 2015 with a special guest article for the Gazette and I’m ending 2015 the same way, thanks to the generosity of Sarah Gurney, the monthly columnist. I am also wrapping up a year spent as Mayor of Sebastopol, a post that is rewarding, time-intensive, at times frustrating, and fun. With four years of council experience prior to being selected to serve as mayor, I had a pretty good idea of the demands and the unique opportunities presented by the office, but there were certainly things I was surprised by. I would like to thank the community, City staff and my coworkers on the council for making this an extraordinary year.

The City Council has discussed several interesting topics recently, some new policies are in place and new plans are being made. Over the course of a couple of years, which included many meetings, both at the Planning Commission and the City Council levels, Sebastopol has now enacted a Formula Business Ordinance. An accurate way to think about this new ordinance is as an overlay to the existing Zoning Ordinance, giving positive guidance to business owners as to appropriate type, size and location. Some media outlets have mistakenly called this a ban; it is anything but a ban. What the Council has enacted is a procedure for business owners to apply for a use permit, have a public hearing where the possible benefits and potential demerits of a proposed project can be discussed and weighed by the community, the Planning Commission and the City Council.

Another long term project is the development of a Laguna Preserve Management Plan to assist with the management of Sebastopol’s significant Laguna frontage. This is a very detailed plan which, at the core, does three things: 1) explains the existing conditions, 2) explains our goals for the Preserve’s future, and 3) details steps to achieve the goals. The Laguna de Santa Rosa is a very important resource for our community and the negative impacts by humans over the course of the last century will require a lot of time, care and money to reverse. The draft plan is available on the City website under “City Services – Planning – Special Projects – Laguna Preserve Management Plan”.

Although a separate entity from the City, I would like to congratulate Sonoma West Medical Center on their recent reopening. The State inspection process was a series of hurdles to clear, and at times it seemed like the hurdles were multiplying during the overnight hours, but the staff and governing boards persevered. This is a vital facility to the entire western Sonoma County and we’re lucky that it’s located in Sebastopol. The almost 200 high quality jobs and the high quality health care for our community are great to have returned. 

On November 19 at 6pm at the Sebastopol Center for the Arts, there will be an open house for the ongoing Sebastopol General Plan update. The General Plan sets long-term City policy in a number of areas, including land use, parks, traffic, and housing. For the last year, a citizen committee has drafted General Plan policies. The open house is an opportunity to review draft policies and ask questions of the City consultant team, or make comments on the draft policies. The draft General Plan policies will be posted on the General Plan update website at prior to the meeting.

With such prosperity in our community, many of us enjoy giving gifts to our friends and families as part of cherished holiday traditions. I’d like to remind everyone to first consider shopping locally for gifts, goodies and getaways. The impact of shopping locally goes well beyond the continually-stated economic benefit; it extends to help us be a real community, authentic and neighborly. It’s almost impossible to come across your neighbor when staring at an shopping cart, but when you’re in a local bookstore, the chances are pretty good that you’ll see someone you know and have an exchange to brighten your day. Happy hour in a downtown beergarden, Super Saturday at the Hardware Store, dropping a package off at the Main Street Post Office and stopping for a cup of coffee at a café; these are all tiny but tremendous ways to help build the type of community we want.