Sonoma County supervisors to consider $1.2 million deal
A 245-acre ranch where replacement heifers for local dairies are raised would be permanently protected from development under a $1.2 million deal to be considered today by Sonoma County supervisors.
On Valley Ford Road between Petaluma and Bodega Bay, the Maffia Ranch sits amid dairies and grazing pastures along a scenic corridor targeted for protection by the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District.
The Maffia family, which has owned the land for 33 years, would sell the district a conservation easement that allows them to continue farming but permanently prevents them or any future owner from subdividing the property. The ranch would remain in private ownership, according to the deal.
Without the easement, the property could be carved up into six lots for estate homes, according to an appraisal done for the open space district.
Because of skyrocketing land costs, Sonoma County's farmland is under a constant threat of being subdivided, said Supervisor Mike Kerns, who represents southern parts of the county.
"Without us purchasing a conservation easement, they may have no other choice than to subdivide the property and sell it," Kerns said. "Then we'd have ranchettes instead of open space.
"One of the reasons the district was formed was to prevent those kinds of things from happening."
Steve Maffia, a third generation rancher who owns the land with his mother, said they hope to see more land in the Two Rock Valley protected.
"Towns and counties have to grow for financial gain, but it's always nice to hold a little bit back so future generations can enjoy it as well," he said. "I want my grandkids to be able to come out here and enjoy the open space I've enjoyed all of my life."
The district has purchased conservation easements over about 10,000 acres of agricultural lands between Petaluma and Bodega Bay, and it is in negotiations with property owners to protect an additional 5,500 acres in that area, said Maria Cipriani, the district's assistant general manager.
The district formed in 1990 when voters approved a quarter-cent sales tax to pay for the preservation of farms, ranches and open space. That tax currently generates about $17 million annually.
The district has protected more than 60,000 acres of farm land and open space since it formed.