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Land Use

Lifestyle

As you turn onto Roblar Road, whether in a car, on a bicycle, equestrian, or on foot, you come face to face with the agricultural heritage of Sonoma County.  The beautiful hillsides and rustic structures tell the tale of times past, when our economy was dependent on dairy farms, chicken coops, and cattle ranching.  Many of these same agricultural pursuits exist today throughout the area, carried on by local residents who cherish the lifestyle and wish to preserve it for future generations. 

Williamson Act Constricts Land Use Until 2015

Over the course of the reviewing the quarry project, the County and the developer changed the description of the project several times.  The Roblar Ranch and quarry site are currently under Willamson Act contracts that limit the type of activity that can be done on the property until 2015 when the current contract on the land expires.  John Barella initially planned to do an allowed land swap to exchange land he purchased along Lakeville Highway in Petaluma for the quarry site to remove the Williamson Act restriction from the quarry site so he could proceed with development.  As the EIR process went on, he instead decided to let the Williamson Act expire in 2015 (as allowed) before beginning any kind of quarry operation pending approvals and permits.  This means that even if legal actions to stop the quarry fail, he cannot begin operation on the site until 2015 or after.  This fact diminished the County's argument about the economic need for gravel from this quarry.  One of their key arguments has been that gravel is needed from Roblar Road to support the Highway 101 widening construction work.  Clearly, that work in the Petaluma/Novato areas will be finished long before the Williamson Act restrictions expire on the Roblar quarry.

Find out more about the Williamson Act.

Open Space Acquisiton

In 2004, John Barella was paid $2.3 million by the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District (SCAPOSD) to preserve the bulk of the property of the Roblar Ranch.  In an article by the Press Democrat in 2004, Stuart Martin, a land acquisition specialist for SCAPOSD, desribed the area as "the prime pasture and dairy ranch land in the county.".  But when the County released the Draft EIR, they said that "only one acre is considered Farmland of Local Importance."  How convenient.

Appropriate Use

Sonoma County has an agricultural heritage worthy of protection.  More and more of the county’s rural lands are becoming vineyards.  This area of west County is one of the last bastions of historic ranching, and an important corridor to the ocean.   The beauty and treasures of this area are irreplaceable.  The Roblar Road area continues to be home to family-owned cattle, goat and sheep ranches, large dairies, chicken, duck and turkey producers, small equestrian centers and growers of local produce.  A new industry of artisan cheesemakers is growing in the area and gaining popularity in the local marketplace.

The DEIR stated that "the project's impact to agricultural resouces would be mitigated to less than signficant; but that the change in land use would be significant and unavoidable due to incompatibility of the quarry with residential land uses in the project vicinity."  The quarry will permanently destroy 28 acres of the 70-acre quarry site and the rest of it must undergo reclamation (20 or 30 years from now), but the fact is that this area of our west County will be changed forever if the quarry goes into operation.

Zoning

The Roblar Ranch quarry property is identified in the Sonoma County General Plan as being within the Petaluma Dairy Belt.  The quarry property was zoned Land Extensive Agriculture (LEA), B-6 160 acre density, and Valley Oak Habitat (VOH), compatible with the neighboring ranches, farms and residences.  The application for the quarry operation includes rezoning the area to add Mineral Resource (MR) to the description.