Category Archives: Agriculture

Protecting ag land in Sonoma County

by Marc Bommersbach

Jackson Family Wines is proposing to convert a parcel of farmland at the corner of River and Slusser roads to a 50-room “eco” resort with restaurant, spa, pool and event center. The resort is part of a larger project that includes a winery at the same location as the resort and a residential subdivision in Wickiup.Because the proposed resort does not comply with the zoning code or the county’s general plan policies designed to protect farmland, the Board of Supervisors will have to vote to revise the general plan and zoning code to allow the resort to go forward, in effect overriding these policies and regulations.

Due to the unprecedented effort to convert a parcel of farmland in the middle of an agricultural area, a coalition of environmental and community groups including the Sierra Club, Greenbelt Alliance, Sonoma County Conservation Action, and Preserve Rural Sonoma County among others sent a letter to county officials requesting they signal that such a request by a developer is not likely to receive a favorable ruling.

The letter states: “Sonoma County has overwhelmingly voted for multiple initiatives to protect our precious open space and ag lands – urban growth boundaries, community separators, and tax increases to purchase land and development rights. Rezoning this parcel of prime farmland to commercial zoning flies in the face of the will of the people and the carefully-designed protections in our zoning code and General Plan to prevent such conversions.”

This proposal represents a frontal assault on the protections Sonoma County voters have put in place to prevent sprawl and protect open space and ag land and would set a dangerous precedent and encourage more conversions of farmland to commercial development.

The county recently began work on an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the project, however, the county’s own planning staff in a letter last year indicated that they could not support the project because “the development of a 50-guest room inn and related facilities is in conflict with a number of policies and inconsistent with the Plan’s principal goals to preserve agricultural land.”

It is important to promote Sonoma County’s agriculture and sustainable practices, and its ag land can accommodate wineries, wine tasting, organic gardens, educational events, farm retail and more to support ag tourism. But hotels belong elsewhere. With nearly 500 wineries, mostly located in agricultural areas, there are more than ample existing venues to showcase Sonoma County’s agricultural bounty and heritage.

There is a concern that if this project gets approved, it will open the door for any other developers and winery owners to pursue rezoning their property for resorts, further commercializing our rural and ag lands.

Please let our county officials know that rezoning our ag and rural land for commercial development that belongs in urban areas should not be allowed. Below are the e-mail addresses of the supervisors.

1st district supervisor Susan Gorin –
2nd district supervisor David Rabbitt –
3rd district supervisor Chris Coursey –
4th district supervisor James Gore –
5th supervisor district Lynda Hopkins –

You can view the full letter sent to the Board of Supervisors here.