The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to remain neutral on billionaire Jess Jackson's controversial bid to rename a prominent mountain in Alexander Valley.

A federal agency will ultimately decide whether Black Mountain becomes Alexander Mountain, as called for in Jackson Family Enterprises' year-old petition to the U.S. Board on Geographic Names.

Still, before their vote, supervisors Mike Kerns and Valerie Brown expressed support for the change.

Supervisor Shirlee Zane criticized the proposal, saying it smacked of elitism. "A common name is not a rational argument for changing the name of a historical, geographical site," she said.

The name dates back to the late 1800s.

Brown later countered with the opposing view. "We have six Black Mountains in Sonoma County," she said. "This is Alexander Mountain and Alexander Valley."

The county actually has four peaks named Black Mountain, including the one south of Geyser Peak overlooking Jackson's 5,400-acre vineyard estate.

Two other peaks in the county are named Little Black Mountain, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

A number of local landowners and the city councils of both Windsor and Healdsburg are opposed to changing the name of the 3,128-foot-high Black Mountain. The Cloverdale City Council is the only official body to endorse the name change.

An official with Jackson's company first said the change was to distinguish the peak from others with the same name and honor the heritage of pioneer settler Cyrus Alexander, for whom the valley was named.

Later, the official acknowledged the prime reason was to bolster the case for a new American Viticultural Area named "Alexander Mountain."

Jackson already uses the name on some of his wine labels.

Caroline Shaw, a spokeswoman for Jackson Family Enterprises, said Tuesday that the company is waiting for a decision from the federal board and would have no comment on the county vote.

The California Advisory Committee on Geographic Names is set to consider the issue July 21 and forward its recommendation to the federal board.

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