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​Community Separators News and Updates

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​Community Separators News and Updates

Where We Are Now

By Teri Shore

For more than a year, we’ve marked maps, written letters, spoken up at public hearings and gathered to plot and plan. How exciting to have all of you on this journey!  We still have a ways to go!

The community separator ballot measure will be the most important “green” measure on the Sonoma County ballot in November. It will preserve what we have and build on our legacy of protecting open space and agricultural lands. We are building steady support across the county from residents, cities, elected officials, organizations and business.

Connecting with so many of you during my “freshman” year at Greenbelt Alliance, I’ve been motivated, inspired, thrilled and yes, sometimes frustrated and overwhelmed. Thank you for the support, guidance, and most of all, the actions you’ve taken to get to where we are today.

Subscribe to Greenbelt Alliance emails here: 

Subscribe to PRMD updates here: 

April 15 Deadline – Letter and Emails Needed

Submitting a letter by this Friday, April 15, will make sure that PRMD considers your comments in the proposal as they prepare the draft ballot measure and potential designations for public review next month by the Planning Commission on May 5 (tentative date).

Send us an email any time at or call Misti Harris at (707) 565-1352.

See draft letter template (below) that you, your organization, as well as elected officials and others may use or revise. Contact emails are provided at the end of the draft letter.

Sonoma County County Community Separator Priority Properties

Draft Template for Community Separators



(If you can’t make that, please send  by April 25 or as soon as possible before the May 5 (tentative) Sonoma County Planning Commission meeting)

Send to: Permit and Resource Management Department

Copy: Your County Planning Commissioners (two per district) and your Supervisor. See below.

April XXX, 2016

Sonoma County Planning Commission
Sonoma County Permit and Resources Management Department
2550 Ventura Avenue
Santa Rosa, CA 95403 

Re: Community Separators – Preserve what we have and build on our success

Dear Sonoma County Planning Commission and PRMD staff, 

For more than two decades, community separators have preserved green buffers and agricultural lands between our towns and cities, protected community identity and preserved Sonoma County’s rural landscape.  They complement city centered growth policies that allow the county to grow within existing Urban Growth Boundaries. These visionary policies have prevented sprawl and strip malls in our greenbelts. If we don’t act now, we risk losing open space and farm lands to inappropriate development.

Thank you for conducting a robust public process to receive public input on the renewal and updating of community separator policies and designations.

I am writing to urge you to preserve the eight existing community separators by extending voter protections for 30 years or more with a countywide ballot measure in November 2016. Community separators around cities and unincorporated communities should be included.

Please also build on this success by supporting the designation of lands as community separators that area already identified in the Sonoma County General Plan 2020.

Other lands that should be prioritized for community separator designation are those identified during the public workshops conducted by the Permit and Resource Department across the county.

The Sonoma County General Plan has identified the following priority areas for designation as community separators:

  • Unprotected priority greenbelts across the county
  • Lands between Cloverdale and Healdsburg
  • Lands around Penngrove

I urge you to prioritize the long overdue designation of these and other lands that meet criteria for community separator designation through a General Plan amendment by the end of 2016.  Protection of groundwater recharge areas, water, habitat and other natural values should also be prioritized in the criteria for community separators. By preventing sprawl and protecting natural resources, community separators contribute to climate resiliency.

Specifically, I urge you to support designating lands as follows: INSERT SPECIFIC AREAS IN YOUR DISTRICT OR ACROSS THE COUNTY THAT YOU WOULD LIKE DESIGNATED.

The continued protection of Sonoma County’s greenbelts and rural character from urban sprawl is an important to our economy, environment and quality of life. Renewing and updating community separators will preserve what we have and build on the county’s legacy of protecting natural and agricultural land for the future.

Sincerely, ________________

Cc: Your Planning Commissioners

Your Supervisor


Greg Carr - 1st District  -

Richard Fogg -  1st District -

Kathleen Doyle- 2nd District  -       

Komron Shahhosseini- 3rd District -

Paula Cook-  3rd District -

Willie Lamberson - 4th District  -

Cameron Mauritson -  4th District  -

Pamela Davis - 5th District  -

Tom Lynch - 5th District -


1st District

3rd District

5th District

4th District

2nd District


Why Now? We need to continue the amazing momentum we’ve generated during the public workshops where more than 100 people have marked maps and gotten excited about preserving our greenbelts and building on our success!


MAPS of Community Separators in Sonoma County

May 5 Planning Commission – Review of Ballot Measure and Potential Designations 

We will see the first draft of the ballot measure and the potential community separator additions at the Planning Commission meeting coming up. Please plan to attend to show your support at this important public hearing – the first major milestone in the march toward the November ballot!  Sighn up for email updates to stay tuned to meeting dates. (see above)

Please send a support letter by April 15 or as soon as possible before the May 5 Sonoma County Planning Commission meeting.

After that, we’ll ask you to help us review the proposals, make comments and continue to engage. See estimated timelines below.

Important Dates and Updates – All welcome!

City of Cloverdale – April 26

City Council - Greenbelt Alliance presentation (tentative)

City Council member Carol Russell has submitted a support letter.

Thanks to Cloverdale crew including Melanie Bagby for getting things moving.


City of Healdsburg – May 2

City Council Meeting – PRMD presentation

Possible City Council letters and/or resolution

Thanks to Bruce Abramson for making this happen.


Outstanding: Santa Rosa, Rohnert Park – We need to approach these cities, too!



Ballot Measure

May – Planning Commission Review and Public Hearing

June – July Board of Supervisors Review and Public Hearing

August – Board of Supervisors Finalize Ballot Measure and Call the Election

September – November Campaign to Pass Ballot Measure

November 8 – Election Day


Community Separator Designations – General Plan Amendment

May – Planning Commission Review and Public Hearing

June – August Board of Supervisors Review and Public Hearing

August – November Board of Supervisors Vote on Community Separator Designations (General Plan Amendment)

Sonoma County Map of Community Separators


April 12, 2016


Sonoma County Planning Commission
Sonoma County Permit and Resources Management Department
2550 Ventura AvenueSanta Rosa, CA 95403 

Re: Community Separators

Dear Sonoma County Planning Commission, PRMD staff and Board of Supervisors,

Sonoma County’s Community Separator policies, established decades ago, preserved the beauty and environmental health of our home and allowed us to grow into a tourist destination and agricultural leader. Without this protection we could have easily become San Jose of the North Bay Area. Separators literally give us “breathing room.”

I believe these open spaces are what make us economically competitive. Few areas have had the forethought to PLAN for the future the way Sonoma County has. By creating spaces between development, we not only preserve our beauty and ecological health, but we also preserve what is unique about us. Our competitive edge is our agricultural heritage, clean air, quality foods and wines, parks for recreation and visual beauty of our landscape. Without all these things we could become like so many other places…Anywhere, USA.

From small parks in dense neighborhoods to large swathes of land that open vistas to enjoy, each green space provides plant habitat that cleans and oxygenates our air. That keeps our air quality better than so many other communities.  Those habitat areas also provide homes for critters, provide water absorption opportunities and water evaporation which increase our chances of having a sustainable water supply. 

Not all green areas need to be parks, but they do provide the greatest opportunities for humans and critters to maintain healthy lives. However, agriculture is an important component in using green spaces in ways that generate income. Parks are expensive to maintain, farms are maintained by the sale of products they grow. However, large scale farming is not always healthiest for co-habitation with humans and critters. Small scale farming, especially organic and sustainable practices farming, is ideal for both green spaces as well as humans and critters.

I encourage Sonoma County to not only sustain our current Community Separators, but to also increase the number and variety of them moving forward. Personally, I'd love to see them extended forever for future generations, but laws and policy usually place a number of decades on agreements to leave options open. 30 years would be long enough to feel the strength of protection.

Sonoma County’s General Plan 2020 identified areas for protections, and PRMD’s recent community workshops brought them right into places where people live. As our 101 corridor/commute zone increases in density for housing and commerce, providing areas within those high density communities is essential for quality living.

Please keep our economic vitality as well as our environmental health in mind as we move forward. Putting a concise measure on the November ballot that will be approved by voters will usher us into a stronger and more healthy future for all of us. 

Thank you for your time and consideration for a healthy future for Sonoma County.

Vesta Copestakes

Forestville 95436