Dec 11, 2018
by Will Carruthers
At its last meeting of the year, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors altered the county's land use rules for cannabis farms, approved staff recommendations for housing funding, and extended several staff contracts among other items during a 10-hour meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 11.
Addressing an overflowing room, the Board of Supervisors expanded its definition of park lands to include to trails under the county's policy regulating the placement of cannabis growing and production facilities.
At core of the debate was the question: Is the West County Trail a park or a trail? The issue came to a head at an October meeting over a proposed cannabis farm at 2915 Railroad St., Graton, which is located next to the West County Regional Trail.
Under a suggested alteration to the county's cannabis land use rules, the West County Regional Trail, which runs through Graton, Sebastopol and Forestville, was considered a Class 1 bikeway, a category not previously included in the county's rule requiring a 1,000 foot setback from parks.
The supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to include bike paths in the set back rule.
At the meeting Tuesday, Jack Buck, the project manager of Jackalope Gardens, the proposed farm, asked the supervisors to give the rule change a separate hearing instead of approving it on the meeting's consent calendar.
Anna Ransome, a Railroad Street resident and member of Friends of Graton, called on the supervisors to consider the trail a "linear park."
"We are here today to make sure that these two trails, [the West County Trail and the Joe Radota Trail], don't slip through the cracks," Ransome said. "The code should apply to all trails equally."
A debate over the rule change and its possible affects on the Jackalope Gardens raged between neighbors of the project and its owners in the weeks before the meeting.
For instance, a company named Waybrook Associates, LLC, bought a half-page advertisement in the Sunday, Dec. 9, issue of the Press Democrat calling on the Supervisors not to approve the change implying that it would reduce the county's tax base and lead to further county staff layoffs.
But, despite the contentious debate before the meeting, the discussion in the board chambers remained calm on Tuesday.
West County Supervisor Lynda Hopkins thanked attendees for maintaining a civil discourse during the meeting.
Prior to the supervisors' vote, Board Chair James Gore noted that, even with the new rule, project owners can apply for use permit to reduce the required set back.
The supervisors approved $148,862 expenditure to remodel the administration building lobby outside of the supervisors' chambers.
The first phase of a package of security upgrades, hiring a security company to screen meeting attendees before they enter the chambers, was approved in August and began at the Dec. 11 meeting.
The second phase, remodeling the building's entryway, was approved on Tuesday, Dec. 11.
The project "will provide substantive security improvements to the reception area of the Administrative Building suites shared by the Clerk of the Board, the County Administrator’s Office (CAO) and the Board of Supervisors," according to a staff report.
Construction on the project is projected to be complete in March 2019.
The supervisors renewed and extended employment contracts with several senior county officials.
Christopher Godley is now the county's permanent Director of Emergency Management.
Godley has worked for the county since March 2018 under a contract with his employer, Tetra Tech, an engineering and consulting company. Last week, the Supervisors extended Tetra Tech's contract until March 2019.
Under the contract approved Tuesday, Godley, who has led an effort to remodel the county's emergency management department while the county conducted a search for a permanent candidate, will begin as a county employee on Dec. 24, 2018, through Dec. 23, 2021.
The supervisors also reappointed County Counsel Bruce Goldstein to his position for four years, until Jan. 2, 2023, and renewed its contract with Jim Colangelo, a consultant working for the Department of Fire and Emergency Services and County Administrator’s Office, through March 2019.
The supervisors unanimously approved a collection of staff recommendations to spend county and federal funds.
County Housing Fund Plans:
The supervisors passed a recommendation for $4.2 million in county funding.
- $500,000 for Lantana Place Homes
- $2,000,000 for Roseland Village
- $1,500,000 for the Boyd Street Apartments
- $200,000 for the Living Room
Federal Fund Plan Amendments:
The supervisors amended a package of staff recommendations for how to spend Federal housing funding in the coming year. The original plan was passed in July.
- $350,000 for Duncan Village
- $182,607 for Altamira Apartments
- $39,000 to fund a phone survey of homeless and precariously housed residents.
The supervisors chose USA Properties, who county staff identified as the most qualified of seven applicants who responded to a call for proposals.
The supervisors directed staff move forward in their attempt to sell a 72-acre plot of land in Santa Rosa as one large plot or three separate ones, citing a desire to get rid of the county-owned land as soon as possible.
The sale process is expected to take approximately a year. This is the county's second attempt to sell the property after aSuperior Court judge ruled in July that the county had not followed state environmental review requirements in its previous sale to a local developer.
Citing the recurring costs of maintaining the land, Supervisor James Gore said Tuesday that the land is currently doing the county "more harm than good."
Supervisor Shirlee Zane proposed letting Homes for Sonoma, a local housing nonprofit, place temporary homes on some of the land while the sale proceeds, but Caroline Judy, the county's General Services Director, said that the Zane's suggestion might delay or complicate the sale.
The full meeting agenda is available here.
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