Cloverdale wants to extend its southern border by two miles to take in bucolic Asti — but it's far from a sure thing.
The City Council in Sonoma County's northernmost city favors the annexation, which would take in the historic Asti Winery and hundreds of acres of land to the south of the city. But voters must also be convinced, along with the agency that approves such incorporations.
"Going to Asti appears to be a bit of a reach," said Sonoma County Supervisor Paul Kelley, whose district encompasses the Cloverdale area.
"The major question is, &‘is it growth-inducing? Is it sprawl?'" said Richard Bottarini, executive officer for the Sonoma County Local Agency Formation Commission, the body that approves annexations.
"We will have to review very carefully how they plan on completing this plan of theirs," he said.
Cloverdale officials have gone to lengths to assure skeptics that extending city boundaries to take in Asti will not gobble up vineyards or lead to unsightly development.
This week, the City Council completed a general plan amendment to clarify the proposed urban growth boundary. It is intended to make Asti part of Cloverdale, but preserve agriculture and allow only new winery-related uses there.
"We wanted to be absolutely sure there will not be a strip mall, a fast food outlet, some tacky, something-or-other built there," said Mayor Carol Russell.
The council's stated reason for taking in Asti is to give the winery the option to receive city sewer and water lines, which would allow it to grow and add jobs.
Asti Winery officials say they want the ability to expand, and Cloverdale council members don't want to risk losing the company and the 60 jobs it provides.
The winery occupies the site of the Italian Swiss Colony, founded in the 1880s by immigrants who named it after the Italian city of Asti.
At one time in the 1950s, the historic winery and colony was said to be one of the most-visited destinations in the state, after Disneyland.
In the 1970s, the late comedian and perennial presidential candidate Pat Paulsen had a nearby winery and proclaimed himself mayor of Asti.
But these days, there is not much that remains of Asti, beyond the name of a road and winery.
Even the small Asti post office has closed and the zip code is a Cloverdale mailing address.
Foster Wine Estates, the Napa-based wine division of the Australian beverage giant, produces Cellar 8 and other brands at Asti Winery.
Cloverdale also wants to annex an industrial area around a lumber yard and tractor sales facility, between Asti and the current city limits. City officials, who have made business development a top priority, want to provide for expansion of manufacturing and industrial uses there.
Supervisor Kelley, who is on the seven-member LAFCO commission that will approve or deny Cloverdale's expansion proposal, said he cannot comment much on the city's plans because they may come before the commission before he leaves office at the end of this year.
But as a county supervisor, he said there is a logical line for Cloverdale's ultimate boundaries that would reach only to the city-run airport, leaving out Asti.
The controversy over whether the hamlet should be part of the city has been brought about by city's ongoing efforts to establish a voter-approved, urban growth boundary.