Notes from planning commission hearing on Freestone

February 1, 2018 Planning Commissioners Meeting Summary – Freestone

To Freestone Stakeholders

The Planning Commissioners’ public hearing took place today to consider the PRMD staff report with which you are all familiar.

Your written and public comments were noted by the Commissioners and extremely supportive to the cause; and they demonstrate that we are informed stakeholders. Eric made a very clear presentation of the facts, which was clearly respected by the Planning Commissioners.

In a show of strength I suppose, Webley’s legal counsel made a public statement that nothing that the Planning Commission could do today would affect their proposed project. We have our work cut out for us.


The Planning Commissioners took a straw vote (Unanimous 5 AYES) to accept staff’s recommendation, but modify the map and table in the staff report to reflect a “split zoning” for the CS Fund and Osmosis properties, which means the front portions of these properties will be zoned Limited Commercial and the back portion will be Rural Residential.  No current “land uses” will be removed from these properties. The Phelps property will be analyzed for potential  “split zoning”.

PRMD’s Jennifer Barrett made it unequivocally clear that the Cheese Shop will be a legal non-conforming use, that their Use Permit runs with the land indefinitely, and that no entitlements or vested rights are removed by the proposed zoning changes. “His investments are golden”, she stated. This is important because many in opposition to the Freestone General Plan item are under the impression that the Cheese Shop will be decimated by the zoning change.

Further, County Counsel explained that without Permits (e.g. Use Permit) an owner is not entitled to compensation if downzoned. This means the residents who claimed there was once upon a time a commercial use on their land, but the current use is residential, unless they had a Use Permit, their property can be downzoned from Commercial to Residential.

On March 1st the Planning Commissioners will vote again on the staff’s modified recommendation as a Consent Item that will then be sent to the Board of Supervisors for their consideration. The public hearing portion of our agenda item with the PC is closed, and our next action will be the Board of Supervisors’ meeting.

Thank you all for all your support and thank you especially to Eric for leading the cause.

A remarkable milestone for Freestone!

Update: at planning commission today the county staff report recommends the county use the 1989 map for zoning as the General Plan had major inconsistencies. That report would keep the old designations and not approve the 19 properties for commercial designation.

Freestone – Sonoma County Planning Commission meeting

The website for the Sonoma County Planning Commission has the rezoning of Freestone on the agenda. No details of the 19 properties and how  they are dealing with the many inconsistencies in the General Plan. Details will not be disclosed until 3 days prior. The old (1989) General Plan does not allow the commercial zoning and the Freestone Zoning Map permits more. 

The owner of the property, Mr. Webley wasn’t happy with community opposition and said, “What I’m trying to do is good for them, and they don’t know it.” He has threatened should he not get what he wants to plant all  205 acres in wine grapes in a water scarce area that already has most of the valley floor and hills in water consuming vineyards. The PD reported “the written proposal calls for a 6,200-square-foot tasting room and commercial area, with an outdoor patio and a separate, lawn area nearby to host outdoor events. A total of 230 parking places were included, including 50 near the barn, in part to accommodate three events a year drawing as many as 300 people each. Food sales, promotional lunches and dinners also were planned. All this in a tiny and historical hamlet of Freestone. 

Click here for the original footprint and problems with inconsistencies in zoning and the General Plan. 

Zoning board members agreed to reconsider the overarching land-use question after Koenigshofer and another former west county supervisor, Ernie Carpenter, testified about it at the April meeting. On Thursday, Willie Lamberson, Supervisor James Gore’s appointee, cast the lone no vote as the zoning board endorsed a moratorium and advanced the issue to supervisors.

“The stakes are high,” Seidman said. “Each small change toward commercialism of this historic and matchless jewel has a cumulative impact.”

Eric Koenigshofer, former resident, started calling attention to the bad suited project with 2,000 direct mailers, calling Webley’s project “the biggest threat to the rural character and quality of life in the area in nearly 40 years,” affecting people in towns all the way from Occidental to Bodega and beyond.



  1. Elizabeth

    What I find interesting about this discussion is that it fails to mention that this barn project as well as the other 19 potential businesses would offer employment to many of the younger people living in the area and revitalize a forgotten town. As a long time resident of the area I also find it strange that this article criticizes Mr. Webley for suggesting a winery as an alternative to the original proposition. He purchased a property with limited commercial zoning for a reason as did many other people in the area!! The Webley Family are very community oriented, donating not only money to different community projects but opening their home to non-profit organizations.

    Further Mr Koenigshofer is described as the champion of a rural community but he in fact attempted to shut down the little creamery on the corner when they tried to get a liquor license costing them thousands of dollars. Three events a year???? The bakery on the corner attracts far more than 300 people on a busy weekend, often clogging traffic for anyone driving through the area.

    Who wrote this article?

    • Janus Matthes


      Elizabeth, This posting was from a local paper. Having lived within a mile of Freestone since 1970, Freestone has always been a small hamlet, an oasis in the midst of industrialized agriculture that has been the trend in this county since wine interests have taken over the dialog and appear to have more rights than citizens. The planning commission hearing which we just got back from, was about inconsistent language between zoning and the General Plan. Webley’s project has an incomplete county file therefore, does not have any direct context at this juncture. His property is in split zoning and is not appropriate for the scale of events and impacts to this small historic hamlet. One young man who grew up on a farm there in the valley told us of Salmon Creek with fish, frogs, birds and water up to your knees in summer. Now it’s a trickle, fish and wildlife gone due to allowing vineyards to suck up all OUR water. The impacts and water use are just not acceptable to most of us who live here.

      Yes, it’s nice to employ a handful of local kids, but short term vision does not protect the area for future generations and quality of life for people who actually live here. Webley clearly said in multiple interviews that his idea was to employ his own kids first. Music vibrating through the valley distracts from the charm, traffic issues are real and safety factor of jammed roads clearly are not in everyone’s best interests in the long view. Bakery traffic is nuts on the weekends and we avoid the area. Those 300 cars a day on the weekend you are talking about would over double with the Webley project. Every weekend we have medivac helicopters flying overhead due to windy, narrow roads and terrible traffic. I don’t know where you came up with 3 events a year as that is not on Webley’s application, he wanted many more.

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