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The family that owns the Kendall-Jackson wine empire has unveiled plans to build nearly 100 homes on the former Wikiup Golf Course, converting half of the 31-acre property into a housing development.

The remaining half of the property, renamed Wikiup Commons, would be dedicated to open space or parkland, including a possible trail along Mark West Creek.

The development would place 39 homes and eight secondary housing units on 5 acres in the northern part of the property, near Pheasant and Carriage Lane. The secondary units, or “granny units,” would accompany a single-family home.

On the southern side, there would be 59 homes and three secondary units on about 10 acres. The homes would range in size from about 1,000 to 2,800 square feet, according to an open letter to neighbors by Katie Jackson, vice president for sustainability and external affairs at Jackson Family Wines.

“The diversity of housing proposed would offer first-time home buyers the chance to enjoy our beautiful community while providing those wishing to downsize a perfect opportunity to be a part of our neighborhood,” Jackson wrote after introducing the proposed plans at a July 11 meeting.

While there’s a desperate need for housing in Sonoma County, many Larkfield-Wikiup residents expressed opposition at a June meeting to high-density housing in the area. Several say the current proposal tries to squeeze too much housing into the neighborhood north of Santa Rosa.

Mandy Brattin, 33, has lived in Larkfield-Wikiup since she was 3, when her parents bought a Larkfield Estates home — which burned in down in October. She bought her Pheasant Lane home in 2016 with her husband to raise their young children. When she heard about housing proposed on the site of the former Wikiup Golf Course, she was initially enthused.

“We get that Sonoma County needs housing,” she said.

But she and her husband became upset when they saw there could be nearly 40 homes on 4.74 acres directly behind her home, with potential new neighbors parking alongside Carriage Lane. They view the proposal as high-density housing, and suggested that half the number of homes with more green space would be a better fit.

“For me, the issue isn’t that they’re proposing development, it’s that they’re trying to put 40 houses on such a small lot,” said her husband, Kevin Brattin, 37.

Tony Korman, who was director of real estate for Kendall-Jackson Wine Estates from 1996 to 2002 and now leads WBR and Korman Development, said the proposed plan is not final and he expects to revise it. However, he disagrees with residents on one contentious point.

“I do not consider this high-density housing,” Korman said in an interview Tuesday. “What we’re trying to do here is provide an attractive, well-designed neighborhood.”

Korman and Jackson held an open meeting in June to get feedback from the community on potential ideas to develop the former Wikiup Golf Course. The 31-acre property currently has “K zoning” for recreation and commercial use, and residents nearly unanimously opposed that. For a new housing development, zoning would have to be changed for residential use, a process which Korman says could be started by the end of the year.

Homesites on Wikiup Drive are priced around $300,000 to $400,000, and larger homes in the neighborhood can sell for $800,000 to nearly $2 million.

“Housing is a big issue and it’s getting worse. We have to put housing someplace. People can’t afford to live here,” Korman said. “The fires have only made it so much worse.”

The night of the fires, most residents trying to leave the neighborhood through Wikiup Drive and Carriage Lane were backed up for about 40 minutes. Mandy Brattin says she is worried about escaping a future emergency if more cars are parked on Carriage Lane.

“Our community is traumatized from evacuating that night,” she said.

An added emergency access route is also proposed for the new development, along with a pedestrian bridge across Mark West Creek.

Larkfield resident Brad Sherwood has started a committee to coordinate the maintenance of future parks in Wikiup Commons, since the area is unincorporated. Sherwood lost his home in the October wildfires, and he plans to rebuild on his old homesite.

“We all want to rebuild our community better. There’s no better time than now,” said Sherwood, who rents a home in Windsor with his wife and two kids.

Jackson and Korman have consulted with National Marine Fisheries Service biologist Bob Coey about the restoration of Mark West Creek by addressing bank erosion and animal habitats. It’s an important watershed for coho salmon and steelhead trout, Coey said.

Korman said a third community meeting about Wikiup Commons will be held some time in August at San Miguel Elementary School, and residents are welcome to email their input to info@wikiupcommons.com.

“This is a concept, not a final plan. We will continue to evolve this site plan,” Korman said.

You can reach Staff Writer Susan Minichiello at 707-521-5216 or susan.minichiello@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @susanmini.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The rezoning process for a proposed housing development on the site of the former Wikiup Golf Course could begin by the end of the year, and homes in that area can sell for close to $2 million. An earlier version of this story contained an incorrect timeframe and figures.

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