Questions & Answers
What has to happen to protect Scott Ranch from development?
There are two options for purchasing this property from the developer. Davidon Homes, which currently owns the property, is willing to sell the entire property for $11 million or to sell the most environmentally sensitive 44 acres of the land for $4.1 million. This part of the property is also the most viable portion of the land to protect as open space for public enjoyment. We have until December 1, 2018 to raise $11 million and until September 1, 2018 to raise $4.1 million. However, before Davidon transfers title to us for the 44 acres of parkland, our agreement requires approval from the Petaluma City Council on Davidon’s plans to develop 28 homes on the north side of the property.
The Sonoma County Regional Parks District wants to expand Helen Putnam County Regional Park to include the largest and most environmentally valuable open space within Scott Ranch, provided independent funds are available to help construct park improvements – including building trails and providing parking and restroom facilities.
To date, $3 million has been raised toward the purchase of the property. Therefore, to complete the purchase of the land that would extend Putnam Park to the east, the community must raise an additional $1.1 million. For the complete purchase of the property, a total additional $8 million must be raised.
Where is the money coming from?
Earth Island Institute’s Kelly Creek Protection Project has received $3,010,000 so far into its Putnam Park Extension Fund to purchase most or all of the Davidon land. Funds are also needed to make the required upgrades on Scott Ranch to prepare it for transfer to the Sonoma County Regional Parks District. The remaining funding will be sought from government and private sector grants as well as community donations.
The Sonoma Land Trust holds an additional $1 million for conversion of part or all of Scott Ranch to public park land. KCPP will discuss how best to use these additional funds to develop the Putnam Park extension with the land trust, Petalumans for Responsible Planning, and Sonoma County Regional Parks.
How was the number 28 homes determined for Davidon to build if only enough funds are raised to cover the partial purchase of the property?
Representatives of the Kelly Creek Protection Project spent months in extensive negotiations with Davidon Homes to strike a balanced deal that allowed Davidon to realize its investment in the land, protected the most sensitive parts of the property, and maximized opportunities for park expansion. As part of the negotiations, Davidon agreed to downscale the plan for the 28 homes, which is the minimum allowed by current zoning for the property, to minimize the footprint of the development, protect viewsheds and lessen impacts on existing homes in the area.
Will there be an environmental review process open to public comment and public hearings?
Yes. There will be additional environmental review of the 28-home project and the Putnam Park Extension Project. The public will have the opportunity to comment on both projects and the associated environmental review and to testify at hearings before the Planning Commission and City Council.
How will the California red-legged frog and other wildlife species be protected?
This property contains some of the best habitat for the threatened California red-legged frog in the region, including a viable stock pond and deep creek tributaries. By protecting Kelly Creek and the land surrounding it, this habitat is preserved – providing an irreplaceable haven for this species and others that rely on a healthy riparian and aquatic environment.
How will the park development, maintenance, and operations be paid for?
KCPP intends to ask the Sonoma Land Trust to devote the $1 million grant it is holding for this park project to pay for the development of key aspects of the park (such as trails, restrooms, and parking), after consulting with Sonoma County Regional Parks and Petalumans for Responsible Planning. Once the land is donated to the Regional Parks District, the district will maintain and operate the park as it does many other parks in the county.
How does this 28-lot housing subdivision plan differ from what Davidon proposed the last time, in 2017? Is this the same as the 28-lot alternative described in the Draft EIR in 2017?
The subdivision for which Davidon Homes is seeking approval as part of this agreement is a more-sensitively designed version of the 28-lot alternative previously submitted for this property, and significantly smaller than the 63-unit development Davidon was pushing for at that time. The new project plan includes an increased buffer zone between the housing development and the parkland and will have fewer impacts on views for existing neighbors.
Why were the negotiations conducted privately between KCPP and Davidon?
After a few months of preliminary conversation, it became clear we were ready to work toward a Purchase and Sale Agreement, solely between Davidon as seller and the Kelly Creek Protection Project as buyer. As a fiscally-sponsored project of the 501(c)(3) Earth Island Institute, KCPP was in a position to bring in large tax-deductible donations and grants to make such a purchase. The process had to be strictly confidential because of the sensitive legal and technical issues that needed to be resolved. Now that we’ve reached a compromise that both the Kelly Creek Protection Project and Davidon Homes can support, the residential and park plans will go through a full environmental review process with multiple opportunities for public comment. We believe that, as the details become known, people will see the enormous value of this compromise to our community.
Could the negotiations between KCPP and Davidon have been conducted more openly?
Keeping the talks, legal provisions, and architectural designs confidential between KCPP and Davidon, until buyer and seller were in agreement on all points, was the only way we could have reached a compromise that permanently protected all or most of Scott Ranch. This is how we were able to make progress in finding out what Davidon might agree to on numerous issues: the prices for all or part of the Scott Ranch property, the maximum number of houses that could be built, the interface between the residential project and the park land, who would pay for what, the timetable, the elements compatible with Sonoma County Parks, and much more. Now that we know what Davidon will agree to, the purchase and sale agreement will legally hold them to it.
What is the timeline for review and approval of the proposed development plan put forth by KCPP and Davidon Homes?
Now, the democratic public review process will begin. This process will include applications for both the park development and the housing development and the revised draft environmental impact report that will address the requirements set by the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and by the Petaluma City Council when it last considered a much larger version of this project in June 2017.
The Sonoma County Supervisors will also consider whether to support the park development with an Open Space matching grant and whether the county will own and operate the park extension.
How can the public weigh in on the two proposed options for the Scott Ranch land?
Residents of Petaluma and Sonoma County have two ways to participate in deciding the ultimate fate of the Scott Ranch land:
- First and starting right now, everyone can debate the merits of the KCPP-Davidon compromise settlement in the public media, in social media, in meetings, and in ordinary conversation. There will be a public comment period on the environmental impact report and the chance to appear and testify before the Planning Commission, City Council, and other resource agencies before any decision is made. The final decisions will be made in open public sessions by our elected officials.
- Second, people can weigh in with their wallets. They can support the partial buyout of 3/4 of the Davidon property by making tax-deductible donations to Earth Island Institute/KCPP for the Putnam Park Extension Fund before September 1st. Those who want to support the “road to zero,” a total buyout of the land for park purposes, can make donations towards that effort up until December 1st.
Democratically and financially, the community will decide what happens to this land – a 44-acre park with 28 houses built on the north side away from the creek, or a 58-acre park with no houses. In the end, if we don’t get City approval AND raise enough money to close escrow on one of those two options, Davidon Homes will still own the entire ranch, zoned for 28 to more than 100 homes, and would retain the right to pursue a larger development at a time of its choosing. Therefore, we need to meet the fundraising goals by the deadlines set in the negotiated agreement between KCPP and Davidon. Ultimately both the housing and park questions will come to a vote of the Council, probably in early 2019.