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OPINION: Community Separators

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OPINION: Community Separators

By Vesta Copestakes

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.