Sonoma County's zoning rules for streamside development delayed

  • 3 of 3 -- Cows cross a flood control channel at Beretta Dairy, on Llano Road, Wednesday, August 9, 2006. The dairy could lose the use of a large portion of the ranch due to 100-foot setbacks from intermittent streams and a flood control channel under Sonoma County's proposed new general plan regulations. (The Press Democrat/ Christopher Chung)

A move to add controversial limits on development and vineyard planting near streams into Sonoma County's zoning code has been delayed and may not be decided until sometime next year.

A public workshop set for Wednesday on the proposed zoning amendment was cancelled and a Nov. 7 Planning Commission hearing on the matter was postponed indefinitely last week by the county's Permit and Resource Management Department.

"There's no real hurry," said Jennifer Barrett, deputy director of the department, noting that the stream bank development limits are already included in the county's General Plan.

"We are applying them already," she said. Putting the limits in zoning law "would streamline the process."

The zoning proposal, which establishes protective setbacks along more than 3,200 miles of year-round and seasonal streams, will go to a "working group of interested stakeholders" to be named next month, Barrett said.

The delay came at the urging of Tito Sasaki, president of the Sonoma County Farm Bureau, she said.

Prior to receiving Sasaki's letter, Barrett said she heard of the Farm Bureau's concern from several county supervisors, but declined to identify them.

Sasaki, a Sonoma Valley grape grower, said the 3,500-member Farm Bureau has "serious concerns" about codifying the General Plan limits "without additional thought going into it."

The rules give equal protection to all stream bank land, known as riparian habitat, Sasaki said. He suggested that the county await current studies assessing the relative importance of those areas.

Many properties will lose value because of the setback rules, Sasaki said. "How do you compensate for that?" he asked.

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