Carriger Road is for everyone in the Valley
David Bolling’s opinion piece, “Thoughts on Carriger Road,” in the March 23 Index-Tribune, presents some interesting points on land-use of property now zoned as Public Facilities (PF) and owned by the Hanna Boys Center. However, he misses the mark on several key points, which may have led to some misunderstanding of the basic issues.
For those unfamiliar with our road, it lies in a pastoral, scenic and historically significant area enjoyed not only by locals, but by many in the Valley who journey to Carriger Road for recreation. Contrary to Bolling’s suggestion, we in the nucleus of the PreserveCarriger.org group are not in a financial position to compensate (bail out?) the Hanna Boys Center for what we believe is their ill-advised and poorly-planned attempt to monetize their unused land, land that might be better utilized by Hanna students for ecological and wildlife studies.
The land in question is, in essence, an endowment for the benefit of future generations of Hanna Boys and other Sonoma Valley students. Secondly, Bolling failed to mention that the Hanna plan calls for new bridge construction over Winkle Creek, an ecologically-sensitive corridor, when alternative, shorter routes from Arnold Drive have not received thorough consideration.
There is a lesson in all of this for Sonoma Valley residents, planners, regulators and elected officials. Whether we are recent arrivals or multi-generational families, it is becoming evident that we all need to work together to preserve our natural, irreplaceable heritage by opposing piecemeal zoning amendments to the Sonoma County General Plan.
We strongly believe that, as a growing population, we must strive to learn more about our obligation to sustain natural settings for our progeny. In the past, that dictum was ignored to satisfy and encourage growth. Only now are we beginning to understand the need to protect parts of our natural world for the enjoyment and recreational benefit of everyone in the Valley.
We should also emphasize to readers of the Index-Tribune that what you have termed a local “land-use dispute” has never been a property-value issue.
Moreover, I invite those who have not yet visited and enjoyed Carriger Road to come on over and see the area for themselves, and to view our website, PreserveCarriger.org for more information.
Hanna plans draw neighbors’ flak
A land dispute between improbable adversaries has been not-so-quietly brewing for a number of weeks along the tranquil country lane known as Carriger Road, where a proposed subdivision of seven homes on some 57 acres has fueled heated opposition from prominent neighbors.
On the other side of the Carriger Road fence, so to speak, is Hanna Boys Center, an island of peace and tranquility with a universally-acclaimed mission and an impressive track record of turning around the lives of at-risk youth.
The dispute came into focus when Hanna officials initiated a neighborhood outreach to explain plans for the subdivision that would marry a 25-plus-acre contiguous parcel the center has owned since its founding in 1949, with an adjacent 30-plus-acre parcel purchased two years ago. That action would require a county-approved General Plan amendment.
An initial meeting last fall stirred widespread concern among Carriger Road residents because access to the proposed subdivision would only be possible along the narrow lane, Hanna officials insisted.
Neighbors translated that news into the assumption that the planned seven luxury homes – with their attendant landscapers, pool cleaners, housekeepers and guests – would equal at least 70 new vehicle trips a day on a road that sometimes narrows down to less than 16 feet in width.
Along with the increase in residential traffic, neighbors argued, would come an intolerable and decade-long increase in construction vehicles – including cement trucks – that would virtually block the road at times and endanger pedestrians, including frail residents of an aptly-named retirement facility called Sonoma Serenity Home.
For its part, Hanna insisted the sole purpose of the subdivision was to raise enough new capital to permanently fund another group home so that the center could serve 12 more boys in addition to the 117 currently in residence.
The center prides itself on the fact that it is self-sufficient and operates independently, taking no money from local, state or federal governments, or from the Catholic Church, even though it was founded by Catholic priests and preserves a low-key Catholic curriculum.
Members of the center’s board of directors saw an opportunity to develop the combined properties to create a net profit of roughly $3 million, apparently not foreseeing the opposition it would create.
“These are difficult times in our depressed economy,” said Kris Van Giesen, Hanna’s chief development and community relations officer. “Hanna’s board members are challenged to explore ways of maintaining financial independence so that we can continue to serve at-risk boys without financial assistance from governmental agencies or the Catholic Church.”
But building seven luxury homes – with an average lot size of 8.2 acres – is not the right solution in the view of Carriger Road residents who have formed a steering committee, with four subcommittees, to attack the Hanna plan. One of the subcommittees – focused just on legal issues – is peopled with five attorneys and a judge. The steering committee chair is Norman Goldstein, a geophysicist, former Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory researcher and former oil industry executive who happened to retire with his wife Susan, a former executive recruiter, on Carriger Road.
Across from the Hanna property, also on Carriger Road, lives Stephen Williamson and his wife, Alexandra Bowes, whose late father was John Bowes, the San Francisco serial entrepreneur who made hundreds of millions of dollars building and turning around companies, including the Kransco Group that eventually owned Wham-O, Morey Boogie Boards, Hacky Sack and Power Wheels. Bowes also bought Yakima, the rack company, and Camelbak, the hydration pack company, and sold both for exponential profits.
Conversations with Carriger Road residents opposed to the Hanna development plan are peppered with references to the Bowes fortune and the presence of Alexandra Bowes.
During a contentious Feb. 16 meeting in an empty garage on the 30-acre parcel – the former Culligan property – some 70 Carriger Road area neighbors packed the room to hear a friendly greeting from Hanna Executive Director, Rev. John Crews – accompanied by five Hanna boys. Crews then left and Hanna board member Tom Angstadt took over the meeting, explaining the development plan and taking waves of increasingly loud and angry questions from the audience, some of whom warned they had the money and the time to stop the project.
Angstadt readily admitted Hanna would be happy to forego the development and simply sell the joint properties if they could “get $3 million out of the transaction. We want to be net $3 million at the end of the day,” he said, adding he would happily entertain any offers.
But the mood in the February meeting was not conducive to negotiations and as the crowd broke up, one angry voice announced, “We’ll go to court and we’ll stand in the road.”
Following the verbal melee, Crews – who had departed with his boys before the meeting became testy – said in his 41 years of being a priest he had not been exposed to such a heated exchange. “For a couple of days,” he said, “we were in shell shock.”
Crews reiterated the center’s vision for the development to underwrite re-opening of a group home that has been closed for financial reasons, and to augment a program that helps Hanna graduates go on to college.
Each student, Crews said, costs about $100,000 a year to support, a figure that compares favorably with other group homes in Northern California. “We did a comparative analysis of five different residential agencies,” Crews said, “and we came out the least expensive.”
And, he added, the 30-acre Culligan property – that is zoned rural residential – had been approved for five total lots more than a decade earlier. “There already was this existing zoning in place,” he pointed out.
Which raises the question as to whether the Carriger Road resistance is not simply a classic “not-in-my-backyard” response.
“No,” said Goldstein. “We’re not NIMBYs. Along the road we do have turnover of homes. We’re not trying to keep people out. But we don’t want more development.”
Goldstein insisted, “There aren’t many undeveloped lots. It’s pretty much built out.” And, he added, the zoning of most parcels along Carriger Road requires a minimum parcel size of 20 acres.
But parcel size is not the only issue neighbors are concerned about. Goldstein, who has considerable expertise in water issues, said the 800-foot well on the Culligan property went dry and a new one had to go down to 1,100 feet for reliable water. Other wells in the neighborhood have had similar histories, a problem attributed in part to the Sonoma Golf Course which also borders Carriger Road. More development he said, will adversely affect the water table.
Some neighbors have suggested Hanna should provide access to the proposed subdivision from Arnold Drive, through the center’s 160-acre campus. But Hanna’s Van Giesen said there isn’t a practical route that wouldn’t involve public traffic passing through the heart of the campus, although he has invited opponents to survey the property themselves.
Through it all, Carriger residents are careful to make clear they don’t hate Hanna.
Joan Geary, another Carriger Road neighbor, insists, “We love Hanna, we love Hanna’s mission. We love what Hanna does for the boys. We don’t want to hurt them with their donor base. We just don’t want them to hurt us.”
To which Van Giesen responds, “We will continue to seek information and feedback from our community, especially our neighbors. We have taken seriously the views expressed by Sonoma neighbors, and we’ve already met with key staff and board members to review the suggestions and concerns.”
Van Giesen added that, “We continue to be open to meeting and working together with concerned neighbors who might have viable alternatives, which still allow Hanna to realize our operating and financial goals, especially reopening an existing residence. This can be accomplished in part, as a result of the income derived from the sale of that property.”
And while the Preserve Carriger Committee continues to meet on almost a daily basis, the word from Hanna indicates some kind of a compromise could be in the works.
“It’s true that Hanna respects and values our neighbors and has been approached by more than one of them to investigate the options around turning the land into Open Space or creatively minimizing the total number of home sites, thus addressing the larger concerns around traffic,” said Van Giesen in an email. “Our only goal has always been to figure out a way to fund a group home on campus, bringing 12 more boys to Hanna, and we are enthused about some of the ideas our neighbors have presented to us and continue to work together to address their concerns.”
Please note: Your full name will be published with your comment.
POSTED BY DENISE HORSFALL
Two things bother me here…
1. “waves of increasingly loud and angry questions from the audience, some of whom warned they had the money and the time to stop the project.” Seriously? These people have the resources to do good in our world and they openly admit they would use their time and money against Hanna Boys Center? (Yes, I note they “support” Hanna. Actions speak louder than words.)
2. Your Valley neighbors on the other side of the Highway live with
“at least 70 new vehicle trips a day on a road that sometimes narrows down to less than 16 feet in width.” Only the truth be told it’s far more vehicle trips per day, on far more streets than Carriger Road, and on 20-yard-length lots rather than 20-acre lots. Take a drive up Hillside or Buena Vista.
Thanks for reporting on this Sonoma IT. Keep us informed. I’d like to be present at the public meetings this generates.
POSTED BY PETER WHYTE
I’m sorry Denise Hall feels blighted by traffic but that is hardly a reason to wish the same on someone else. It should also be pointed out that people on Carriger Road support Hanna, are already among major donors to Hanna and not everyone on Carriger is rich. We, too, have 20 yard lots. I was at the Feb 18th meeting and the reason it went sour was the perceived arrogance of the Hanna presenters (Father John excepted). Among the points they brought up:
If we didn’t like their proposal they could do far worse.
Yes, they could access the proposed development from Arnold using existing roads but they didn’t want the construction traffic to disturb the boys.
The supposed $3 million profit would support only 2 extra boys on an ongoing basis ($100,000 plus per year per boy vs. the annual return on $3 million).
They are spending an additional $15 million on upgrading existing facilities and new buildings.
They will not discuss development plans for the 60 acres they own on the east side of Arnold
This is not a case of poor boys versus the rich; it is a case of preserving a unique corner of Sonoma Valley settled by Nicholas Carriger in the 1840s. Believe me; we very much want to work something out with Hanna, but not at the expense of destroying the environment.
The preservecarriger.org website has more.
Committee Member PreserveCarriger.org
POSTED BY LEE HALL
Wow, more SoCo NIMBY’s gone wild..
I’m always curious what makes people think they get to control everything all around them.
I would hazard a guess that these wealthy elderly people with clearly too much free time on their hands are Republicans, EXCEPT when it comes to the right of their neighbors to use their own properties within the applicable zoning parameters.
POSTED BY MOLLY DETWILER
I live in the neighborhood but not on Carriger. My husband and I attended the February 16 meeting to learn more about the Hanna project and the issues in question, but ended up wasting our time. What we witnessed was an audience less interested in listening than in voicing opposition. Folks seemed to arrive with their minds made up and ready to do battle. Granted, Mr. Angstadt could have chosen his words more carefully and managed the meeting more effectively, but he and the Hanna staff members present did nothing to deserve the accusations, threats, and jeers that ensued almost immediately after he began. Hanna arranged the meeting as a courtesy and received rude and disrespectful treatment in return. The audience behavior was not only shameful but counterproductive. We never had the chance to learn the information we came to hear. The Carriger neighbors have legitimate concerns, but failed to help their own cause. A combative “us versus them” approach might win the day in some situations, but is ill-advised and inappropriate in this case. The Hanna “family” has lived in Sonoma Valley since 1949 and is home to hundreds of students, alumni, employees, vendors, donors, volunteers, and community members. It conducts its business with dignity, patience, and integrity. I’m confident that Hanna will take the high road in reaching a satisfying solution for all concerned. Will you do the same?
Not everyone on Carriger is rich
I’m sorry (that in her online comments) Denise Hall feels blighted by traffic but that is hardly a reason to wish the same on someone else. It should also be pointed out that people on Carriger Road support Hanna, are already among major donors to Hanna and not everyone on Carriger is rich. We, too, have 20-yard lots.
I was at the Feb. 18 meeting and the reason it went sour was the perceived arrogance of the Hanna presenters (Father John excepted). Among the points they brought up:
If we didn’t like their proposal they could do far worse.
Yes, they could access the proposed development from Arnold using existing roads, but they didn’t want the construction traffic to disturb the boys.
The supposed $3 million profit (from developing the property) would support only two extra boys on an ongoing basis ($100,000-plus per-year-per-boy vs. the annual return on $3 million).
They are spending an additional $15 million on upgrading existing facilities and new buildings.
They will not discuss development plans for the 60 acres they own on the east side of Arnold Drive.
This is not a case of poor boys versus the rich; it is a case of preserving a unique corner of Sonoma Valley settled by Nicholas Carriger in the 1840s. Believe me, we very much want to work something out with Hanna, but not at the expense of destroying the environment.
The preservecarriger.org website has more.
Thoughts on Carriger Road
The land-use dispute that has pitted residents of Carriger Road against Hanna Boys Center is an object lesson in the constantly occurring conflict between property rights and community values that plays out all over Sonoma County and the country at large.
As reported on Tuesday, Hanna has sought to develop two parcels it owns, adjoining its Arnold Drive campus, into seven luxury home sites in order to generate about $3 million in net revenue to endow its capacity to serve about 12 additional boys.
That’s a noble cause.
But since the only access to those sites Hanna deems workable is the narrow, lightly-trafficked and dead-end Carriger Road, neighbors along that county-maintained country lane are passionately opposed to development that they feel will ruin their rural tranquility.
That’s a completely understandable and legitimate concern.
But viewed from an objective distance, it is hard to conclude that either side in this unfortunate conflict is wrong.
Hanna has proposed to place seven homes on about 57 acres, which translates into more than eight acres per parcel, hardly a high-density use. It has owned 25 of those acres since 1949, long before most, if not all, of the protesting neighbors arrived.
The 30-acre parcel the center acquired two years ago had previously been zoned to accommodate five home sites, with the only possible access point being Carriger Road. Had the original owners chosen to exercise that zoning, there could conceivably by five luxury homes under construction on that site even now.
We are not aware of any other Carriger Road parcels with zoning that allows lot sizes smaller than 20 acres, but if one did exist, and its owner were a family with decades of history on that site and a financial need to finally and rightfully develop it, would that family also be attacked by its much more-recently arrived neighbors?
Preservation of open space is such a priority in Sonoma County that residents willingly and without visible protest pay a quarter-cent property tax to fund the purchase of land they don’t want to see transformed from farm and forest into houses and mini-marts. In that process, countless landowners have participated in the preservation process by surrendering the opportunity for maximum profit in exchange for the sale of conservation easements that forever restrict development on their land.
We thereby collectively and legally appear to agree that, in order to fairly protect both property rights and open space, private landowners should be fairly compensated for keeping places we prize off the real estate market.
We fail to see why the Carriger Road situation should be viewed any differently.
Were we residents of Carriger Road, we might very well count ourselves among the neighbors opposed to Hanna’s development plan. But we would also believe that, if we want to keep the Hanna-owned property development-free, we should compensate the center appropriately.
We think that’s what the residents of Carriger Road should do, and we think that’s what some of them can do, if they so choose.
Please note: Your full name will be published with your comment.
POSTED BY JOHN MERRITT
Hanna’s proposed development will not only affect Carriger Road residents but also residents on Craig Avenue and Orange Avenue. Traffic from those new houses will have to get on Arnold Drive somewhere. One car waiting to turn left on Arnold Drive from Craig Avenue effectively blocks traffic now. Why should this traffic problem be made worse?
There are existing roads through the Hanna property that enter Arnold Drive where the new “round about” is to be constructed at Agua Caliente Road. Traffic to Arnold Drive from the Hanna development could very easily enter Arnold Drive without the disruption that would come with more traffic on Carriger Road, Orange and Craig Avenue.
The claim made that a road through Hanna is impossible because of a required creek setback is a total red herring. It is beneath the dignity of Hanna to allow such a claim to be made on its behalf. If Hanna claims there will not be a negative impact on the residents on Carriger and adjoining streets Hanna cannot argue that there will be a negative impact from routing traffic on existing roads through Hanna to the roundabout at Aqua Caliente Road and Arnold Drive.
Against change to Carriger Road
First let me say, I do not live on Carriger Road. But for more than 20 years, I have walked my dogs and at times will ride my bike on Carriger. I have even been known to ride my horse down to the end of Carriger.
I am totally against any change to Carriger Road. Carriger Road has a special charm that cannot be found in many places these days. In this crazy, fast-moving society we now live in, Carriger is a place where one can take a stroll and enjoy nature.
There is a road that goes right through Hanna Boys Center. It is paved and big enough to get the big trucks up to the land that Hanna wants to develop. Instead of totally redeveloping a road, putting in a new bridge (I am not sure the wooden one at the end of Carriger will be able to support the increased traffic), why not compromise and just have the access through Hanna?
The reason? Hanna doesn’t want to break the bubble they have created (stated by the Hanna board member at the neighborhood meeting). If they want to develop the land behind the school, they just might have to break their bubble.
A suggestion to Carriger Road residents
The residents of Carrier Road don’t have anything better to do?
Here’s a suggestion: Take a tour of Hanna Boys Center. Talk with Father Crews.
He’s the nicest guy I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. Then take some of the millions you so boldy boast about and donate it to Hanna. Do something good with it instead of giving it to the courts.
Diane LaRocca Kauth
Neighbors oppose Hanna Boys Center real estate deal
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Published: Monday, February 20, 2012 at 1:27 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, February 20, 2012 at 2:10 p.m.
The nonprofit Hanna Boys Center in Sonoma Valley is facing neighborhood opposition over its plans to sell land after it gets approvals needed to develop it into a housing subdivision.
A spokesman for the Catholic-run facility characterized the project, which involves 57 acres the center owns on its campus west of Arnold Drive, as a benevolent fund-raising effort aimed at helping more troubled boys.
“We’re not in the real estate business, that’s for sure,” said Kris Van Giesen, the center’s chief community relations officer. “Our goal from the beginning has been to figure out how to bring 12 more boys to our campus.”
But getting the project approved will require the center to obtain several land use changes, including an amendment to the county’s general plan, and to overcome neighborhood resistance.
Those plans call for subdividing the 57-acres into seven lots of four to 11 acres each. Each parcel would be served by private septic systems and wells, or by the Valley of the Moon Water District.
The main point of contention is the proposed access to the subdivision from Carriger Road. Critics say increased traffic on the narrow two-lane road will present hazards for pedestrians and ruin the area’s rural character.
They also raise concerns about the impact of development on groundwater supplies and the environment. The property includes a creek and a scattering of oak trees.
Nearly 30 neighbors so far have submitted letters to the county in opposition to the project. Carriger Road resident Stephen Williamson was among them, stating in his letter that he supports Hanna’s mission but not changes that could impact the road.
“To think that this road will be further denigrated with increased traffic is saddening,” he wrote.
Most correspondents suggested that access to the subdivision should be from Arnold Drive. But that plan is opposed by the county public works department, which currently is installing a traffic roundabout near the Hannah Boys Center main entrance.
“They don’t want another drive-way punched in there,” said Karin Theriault, a county planner who is overseeing the project.
The other option proposed by neighbors is to provide access to the new parcels via the main entrance of the Hanna Boys Center and install a new driveway that would skirt along the edge of a creek at the southern portion of one of the proposed lots.
But Theriault said that option, which has yet to be studied, may have negative environmental impacts on the creek .
The Hanna Boys Center opened in 1949 to serve troubled boys, who are referred to the facility through juvenile court authorities, Catholic parishes, school counselors and Hanna alumni. Currently, upwards of 120 boys live, work and attend school at the 170-acre foothill campus on Arnold Drive.
The center operates under the umbrella of the Santa Rosa Diocese but does not receive funding from the Catholic church, Van Giesen said. He said in these tough economic times, all nonprofits are having to think outside the box to raise money, hence the center’s plans for selling the property after it has been approved for development.
He said the center understands the concerns about increased traffic on Carriger, which he called a “beautiful road.”
But he said some of the critics have been spreading misinformation and overstating the project’s scope.
The property includes 30 acres on Carriger Road that the center paid $3 million for about a year ago. Theriault said that parcel already is zoned for residential use.
The additional 27 acres is zoned for public facility use, prompting Hanna to seek zoning changes. That will involve several public hearings and ultimately a decision by the county board of supervisors.
Valerie Brown, the supervisor whose district includes Sonoma Valley, said the plans submitted by Hanna could represent a less intensive use of the property than had the center sought to expand facilities on the site.
“I would think there is more potential for traffic as a facility than there is with homes,” she said. “But I haven’t looked at all aspects of that.”
You can reach Staff Writer Derek Moore at 521-5336 or firstname.lastname@example.org.