Wildwood Progress, Plans & Status for 2020

Leif Glomset

 

Background to zoning and land use: In September 2019, Sonoma County posted a notice to “Cease all Events” at Wildwood until zoning and code issues are resolved. This forced us to cancel the Fall Men's Festival and all further events. 

 

Wildwood is zoned under California’s Williamson Act that reduces property taxes on lands used exclusively for agriculture. This very old zoning contract dates from 1951. That zoning only allows a single-family residence and outbuildings. Under the restrictions of this zoning, Wildwood could not get permits for today’s buildings that make up the Wildwood Retreat Center.

 

Progress: In September the Wildwood Board immediately retained a land-use attorney and conducted extensive research on Wildwood’s past interactions with the county. We began conferring with Sonoma County officials to identify potential paths forward so Wildwood can continue its long-standing forest preservation and retreat center mission—all in compliance with County codes and regulations. 

 

In December, we met with our Sonoma County Supervisor, County Counsel, and senior Planning and Building officials with expertise in the Williamson Act. Our initiative resulted in a forward-looking and action-oriented meeting. Our County Supervisor reassured us that she supports the Wildwood mission. A follow-up meeting was held with the Sonoma County Counsel and the County Planner with Williamson Act expertise. Together we laid out several options for Wildwood to move forward.

 

As of today, Wildwood agreed to apply for a zone change and a use permit which would bypass the Williamson Act while maintaining its tax benefits. That change would allow permitted use as “a resort” and “for camping.” December, January and early February were focused on intensive documentation to meet the requirements for these applications.  

 

On February 13, 2020, we submitted our application and paid Sonoma County fees of $18,500 for the County review of our application. Our formal application required architectural drawings that document the existing Wildwood structures. An expert created professional building and infrastructure drawings of Wildwood, and generously agreed to only $6,000 for the drafting.

 

Wildwood has been assigned a Sonoma County planner to assist with the review process (reviews by 11 county departments, notice to neighbors, formal Wildwood presentation to the planning commission, and finally, presentation to the County Board of Supervisors). 

 

This review process of rezoning and use permitting would assess (for example) fire department access, traffic to and from retreats, environmental concerns if any, and septic system capacity. When concurrently reviewed, this review process may take 9 - 12 months. 

 

Progress on retreat center operations: We anticipate no Retreat Center income in 2020. However Wildwood is alive and well on our 210-acres of redwood habitat.

 

Our volunteer crew continue to improve the property: 1) Working to follow the mission of our forest management partners Golden State Land Conservancy and Forests Unlimited; 2) Clearing property access for CalFire (fallen trees, washed out roads, helipad landing);  3) Track reopening Old Cazadero Road (washed away in 2017). Wildwood was assured that a 2020 start has been approved and is being contracted!