We’ve all experienced a shock as we drive along one of the main roads – Highway 12 or Arnold Drive or Adobe Road, for example – running along the base of Sonoma Mountain and suddenly come upon a large new building under construction or newly completed where we used to see trees. We also know development happens and people have a right to build on their property. But, in Sonoma County, as in all locations with responsible public oversight, all property development plans get reviewed by county officials and must be approved before anything can be built.
There are many ways to protect a mountain, as there is reason to love it. One overriding goal for member of Sonoma Mountain Preservation’s steering committee is to preserve the mountain’s beauty – as simple as that. Excessively obtrusive development will destroy the very features of the landscape most of us enjoy.
To keep it beautiful SMP leaders wrote a set of development guidelines more than a decade ago. The county adopted the guidelines in 1998 and uses them to inform property owners who want to develop on the mountain.
Anyone planning to build on the mountain must submit an Administrative Design Review application to the county Permit and Resource Management (PRMD) project review staff at 2550 Ventura Avenue in Santa Rosa (707-565-1900).
Here’s how the design guidelines work and why we all benefit from observing them:
Following the design guidelines reduces the visual impact of buildings as seen from designated scenic corridors (most main roads bordering the mountain).
Guidelines apply to single-family homes and outbuildings, related roadways, grading sites and utilities.
Proposed structures need to be substantially screened by existing vegetation or topographic features when view from a scenic corridor.
Exterior colors need to be earth tones that don’t reflect glaringly and blend in with their surroundings.
Night lights must have minimal visibility from scenic corridors.
Plants used fro screening vegetation need to be indigenous or of similar character and large enough to screen structures within ten years of installation.
The complete guidelines are available online: http://www.sonomacounty.org/prmd/docs/zoning/articless90.htm#226-90-050
These friendly guidelines are intended to keep the mountain beautiful in perpetuity, especially from a distance, which is how most of us see it, but they also benefit neighbors of new development.
We count on all who love the mountain to know these guidelines, follow them, educate others about them and to help us monitor for compliance with them. And, that’s just one way we work to preserve out mountain.