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Monday, January 17, 2011

Proposed Zoning Changes to Agricultural Lands and Preserves

From: Sonoma Coast 

Dear Neighbor, You may have received a Notice of Public Hearing, at The Permit and Resource Management Department set for this Thursday, January 20, at 1:05pm on what seems to be rather sweeping changes to zoning codes in our area as well as the whole county. Most of us have had no time to figure out what the zoning changes are, let alone understand any benefits or probable consequences. That wouldn't be so bad if it didn't say, "If you challenge the decisions on the project in court, you may be limited to raising only those issues previously raised before the Planning Commission at the [Thursday, January 20] hearing or in written form delivered to the Planning Commission prior to or at the hearing."

There's not much time to respond appropriately except in this way: Please take a moment, now, before the deadline of January 20, 2011, to write a letter responding to the Provisions for Changes to Agricultural Preserve Rules and Agricultural Zoning Code Sections, by saying that you formally object to the provisions listed in the Notice of Public Hearing based on the fact that, notices have been received only in the last 10 days and apparently many parcel owners never received the notice at all.

Because of the short notice and inconsistencies in notification, citizens have had no time to assess possible benefits or consequences.

Mail to:
The Sonoma County Planning Commission
Permit and Resource Management Department
2550 Ventura Avenue, Santa Rosa. 95403



The Sonoma County Permit and Resource Management Department has prepared draft changes to the Sonoma County Uniform Rules for Agricultural Preserves and Farmland Security Zones and to the Zoning Code for agricultural land located in the unincorporated county (ORD10-0001). Area affected: County-wide and all properties subject to a Williamson Act Contract, including the Coastal Zone; Zoning Districts affected: LIA {Land Intensive Agriculture) and LIA CC (Coastal Combining), LEA (Land Extensive Agriculture) and LEA CC (Coastal Combining), DA (Diverse Agriculture) and DA CC (Coastal Combining), RRD (Resources and Rural Development) and RRD CC (Coastal Combining), RRDWA (Resources and Rural Development/Agricultural Preserve) and RRDWA CC (Coastal Combining, AR (Agriculture and Residential) and AR CC {Coastal Combining); Supervisorial Districts: All

The Sonoma County Planning Commission will conduct a public hearing to consider a recommendation on the proposed Rule update and related Zoning Code amendments at 1:05 p.m. on

January 20, 2011 in the hearing room at the Permit and Resource Management Department, 2550 Ventura Avenue, Santa Rosa.

Proposed changes to the Zoning Code include:

--Allowing agricultural processing, subject to a Use Permit, in the AR and AR CC zoning districts;

-Allowing "agricultural homestays" in the LIA and LIA CC, LEA and LEA CC, DA and DA CC zoning districts with a Zoning Permit, subject to standards;

-Clarify lot coverage limits in the amount of land that can be covered by buildings, with exceptions for farm buildings required for the farm operation to meet water quality or other environmental regulations;

-Rezoning of all properties in the RRDWA and RRDWA CC zoning districts to the RRD and RRD CC district, with corresponding clarification of the uses allowed under Williamson Act contracts. This avoids the need to rezone properties going in or phasing out of Williamson Act contracts;

To conform with state law regarding agricultural preserves, modification of the County's Rules for administration of agricultural preserves that include the following:

-Requiring that 50% of contracted land is in agricultural use, open space use, or a combination of the two, depending upon the type of contract;

-Changes in the annual gross income requirements for Type I contracts to $800 per acre;

-Eliminating forestry, residential uses, churches, schools, and public utility structures as qualifying "agricultural uses" and adding the following as qualifying "agricultural uses": commercial raising of ornamental trees, beekeeping, and irrigated pasture crops;

-Allowing certain residences, agricultural processing (such as wineries and canneries), some public utility structures, horse breeding, veterinary services, temporary events, and livestock auction yards as "compatible uses," and eliminating lumber mills, private air strips, churches and schools, and event centers as "compatible uses." These proposed changes are also reflected in the proposed Zoning

Code changes;

-Procedures to establish Farmland Security Zones, subdivision, lot line adjustments, and contract administration.

It is the determination of the department that the Rules Update is categorically exempt from the provisions of the California Environmental Quality Act pursuant to the Provisions of Title 14 of the California Administrative Code, Section 15060(b)(2), General Exemption, and Sections 15307 and 15308, Actions by Regulatory Agencies to protect the environment and natural resources. Changes to the Zoning Code are minor modifications to uses of land that were addressed in the GP 2020 EIR.

Standards are incorporated to ensure impacts are reduced to less than significant.

If you challenge the decisions on the project in court, you may be limited to raising only those issues previously raised before the Planning Commission at the hearing or in written form delivered to the Planning Commission prior to or at the hearing. Prior to the hearing, the project details and environmental documents may be reviewed at, or written comments submitted to the Permit and Resource Management Department, at 2550 Ventura Avenue, Santa Rosa, CA 95403.

Contact David Hardy at 707-565-1924, or via email to dhardy@sonoma

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