Freestone outdoor event center/beer gardens/wine tasting project has website to organize resistance

There is now a website for the fight against the big event/beer gardens/wine tasting center in Freestone. It is: .


The Freestone Bodega Preservation Committee did send out some postcards to the immediate residents to sign up for alerts. On the above site you can hit contact and sign up for alerts as they come out. Their mailing address is PO BOX 173, Bodega 94922. Now is the time to show support before this goes very far.

From the website:

Current Issue: Hospitality Center…No Thanks!

The breaking news of a proposed major commercial development in Freestone triggered the formation of FBPC. The prospect of a “Hospitality Center” replacing the historic barn and silo at the entrance to Freestone confirmed the community’s worst fears. A development such as this would cause a complete transformation of the village of Freestone and the entire historic corridor from Occidental through Freestone and down Bodega Highway to the Town of Bodega.

Critical Issue Facing Freestone: General Plan Consistency

The mapped zoning in much of Freestone is WRONG! “Commercial Rural” zoning under the broad category of “Limited Commercial” land use was to apply ONLY to commercial uses which existed in 1989. This is unarguable when one considers the language in the 1989 General Plan and the 2006 General Plan.

How did this information become known?

In response to the proposed “Hospitality Center” Eric Koenigshofer, resident of the Freestone Valley since 1979, researched the General Plan and zoning history of Freestone. Eric investigated the zoning in Freestone from the adoption of the original General Plan in 1978 forward to the current General Plan. In addition to living in the neighborhood for decades, Eric served on the Board of Supervisors from 1977 to 1981. As 5th District Supervisor he represented West Sonoma County, including Freestone and Bodega.

Along with Supervisors Brian Kahn of the 1st District and Helen Rudee of the 3d District, Eric was part of the Board majority to enact the original General Plan in 1978. His “institutional memory” of the process and policies provided useful insight for his research.

Here is the General Plan and zoning story, step by step…

The 1978 General Plan introduced new policies limiting growth in rural areas to protect agricultural lands, open space, and the unique “character” of the several small communities in the Coastal Planning Area, including Freestone. Recommendation 3.33 states “Care should be taken to preserve the historic character and scale of each community…” and this included Freestone.

The next step on the path forward came in the form of the 1979 West Sebastopol Specific Plan. This document reflected community input toward implementing the 1978 General Plan in more specific terms. In the short section on Freestone, the West Sebastopol Plan states “The proposed plan does not alter the existing Historic District zoning and is primarily combined with the Secondary Agricultural district which allows various commercial uses by Use Permit.” The plan goes on the say “When a Rural Commercial district (CR) is available it should be considered for Freestone.”

This second sentence is key. At this point in time there was no “Rural Commercial” zoning category and the then existing zoning was under review to bring it into conformance with the newly adopted General Plan. The policy direction was to be more protective of the small villages and towns (as noted above in the 1978 General Plan language). The second sentence anticipates the creation of a “Rural Commercial” category of zoning and directs that once it is created it should be “considered for Freestone.” The statement anticipates a future analysis to determine if and how much “Rural Commercial” zoning would be appropriate for Freestone considering the General Plan policies to retain “community character.”

The foundation laid by the 1978 General Plan and the 1979 West Sebastopol Specific Plan became focused in the 1989 General Plan update.

Further refinement and implementation of the 1978 General Plan and the 1979 West Sebastopol Specific Plan is achieved through the 1989 General Plan update. The anticipated “Rural Commercial” category came to be and, as called for in the 1979 West Sebastopol Specific Plan, was “considered” in the 1989 update.

Referring to the 1989 General Plan update, Land Use Element, page 53, the Sonoma Coast/Gualala Basin Planning Area “…runs the length of the (Sonoma) Coast…from the Gualala River to the Estero Americano…” (Mendocino County line to the Marin County line). The planning area is defined as: “In addition to several coastal communities it extends inland to include Annapolis, Cazadero, Duncans Mills, Bodega, Freestone, Camp Meeker, and Occidental.”

The 1989 General Plan also includes Land Use Element, Policy LU-10-f,

which states:

“Use the “Limited Commercial” category for existing and any needed new local commercial in Annapolis, Bodega, Bodega Bay, Cazadero, Occidental, and Sea Ranch. Outside these communities, apply the “Limited Commercial” designation only to existing uses and limit their expansion…” Note the absence of Freestone from the listed communities in the first sentence. That means Freestone, falls into the second category…those communities “outside” the listed communities…clear as can be…in Freestone “…apply the ‘Limited Commercial’ designation only to existing uses and limit their expansion…”

The next cycle, General Plan 2020, the update done in 2006, carries the same language forward in Land Use Element, Policy LU-12e which reads:

“Use the “Limited Commercial” category for existing and any needed new local commercial uses in Annapolis, Bodega, Bodega Bay, Cazadero, Occidental, and Sea Ranch. Outside these communities, apply the “Limited Commercial” designation only to existing uses and limit their expansion.”

Again, Freestone is within the realm of the second sentencing limiting commercial designation only to then existing…then being 1989!

In 1989/1990, the existing commercial uses in Freestone included the following properties: 1) the Freestone Store, 2) the former Freestone Hotel – Wishing Well Nursery, 3) Osmosis, 4) what is now the Wild Flour Bakery corner – formerly Rocco’s and before that Basso’s, and 5) most recently known as the Phelps Tasting Room formerly Pastorale.

In 1989/1990 when the updated General Plan was implemented things went haywire…for some unknown reason the translation of the General Plan text to zoning maps failed to accurately implement General Plan Land Use Policy LU-10f (later in General Plan 2020, LU-12e). Instead, a huge chunk of Freestone was mapped as being commercial…an obvious error.

The zoning map shows a commercial designation on a portion of the Webley property where the “Hospitality Center” is proposed along with about a dozen houses and even the fire station/community park property. That represents commercial designation on about 19 properties instead of five…in other words this error turns Freestone into a commercial strip mall of future shops and wine tasting rooms.

The erroneous designation of nearly 75% of downtown Freestone as commercial must be corrected. Sonoma County must stop all applications for commercial use of the wrongly zoned properties and correct the error by zoning the residential properties as “Rural Residential” and the Webley property as agricultural, and the fire station/community park as “Public/Quasi Public.”