Mendocino County Today: March 10, 2012
by AVA News Service, March 9, 2012
FRIDAY'S Santa Rosa Press Democrat reported that former Sonoma County Fifth District Supervisor Ernie Carpenter will run for his old job. Carpenter says he’s concerned about recent decisions by incumbent Efren Carrillo that approved an asphalt plant and a winery with a tasting room. Carpenter also said he “questioned Carrillo’s stance on Preservation Ranch, the forest-to-vineyard conversion project on nearly 20,000 acres outside Annapolis.”
MORE PRECISELY, Annapolis is the nearest small town, and it’s a very small town. Most people would get to the property west of Healdsburg by driving from 101 west towards the Mendocino Coast. The project is located in the Gualala River watershed.
ACCORDING TO THE PD’s WILKISON, Carpenter is “a strong environmental advocate” … “who since his retirement from the board has worked as a consultant for local waste hauler North Bay Corp.”
BUT BACK in the late 1990s, Carpenter, the strong environmental advocate, worked for Willits timber broker, Rich Padula, the former owner of the Preservation Ranch property.
PRESERVATION RANCH is the current name of the controversial vineyard conversion project, but back in 1999 Carpenter was hustling his enviro credentials for Coastal Forest Lands (CFL) owner Rich Padula who was trying to sell the logged over tract — since renamed “Preservation Ranch” by wine financier William Hill — to a now-defunct scam-a-rama called “Strategic Timber Trust,” which turned out to be a real estate scheme based on falsely exaggerated assessments of the amount of timber remaining on Padula’s property. Carpenter, leveraging his “environmental” credentials as a former Supervisor, told Sonoma enviros in 1999 that “the timber industry is dead anyway on the North Coast and CFL’s vineyard project was preferable to the only other alternative — rural subdivisions for rich people.”
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT’S Chris Coursey quoted Carpenter on his “lesser-of-two-evils” offer from CFL. “If you don’t like grapes, you’d better like houses — that’s the choice here. The question isn’t whether this is coming. The question is, ‘What will it look like? How can we make it better?’” Coursey went on to present Carpenter’s argument that “historic subdivisions [i.e., certificates of compliance dating back to the 19th century] on the vast tracts of timberland create the potential for 362 ‘estate homes,’ each one with a potential vineyard surrounding it. One big vineyard, managed with sensitivity to habitat and waterways and soil, is a much better option, Carpenter argues.”
TRUE, the “Preservation Ranch” proposal is indeed for a bunch of pricy winery estate homes. But there’s not much difference between that and what Carpenter was lobbying for back in 1999 at the behest of Padula – the whole show pegged to the myth that vineyard and wine people are environmentally sensitive.
FROM THE COMING WEEK’S Supe’s agenda: “Supervisors McCowen and Brown are requesting that the Board discuss the concept of reducing or waiving building fees for projects that meet defined job creation criteria and direct staff to research similar programs that may have been implemented in other jurisdictions and return to the Board as soon as possible with recommendations for implementing such a program for Mendocino County. Conceptually, fees could be reduced a certain percentage for each job created. For example, a 25% reduction in fees for each job created would result in a waiver of fees for projects that create four or more jobs. Mendocino County continues to experience reduced economic activity and a high rate of unemployment. The unemployment rate is slightly better than the statewide average, but still exceeds 11%. According to US Census statistics Mendocino County median household income is only 70% of the statewide average and 20% of Mendocino County residents are at or below the federal poverty level. There may be people with projects ready to move forward who are holding back given the continued uncertainty regarding the economic outlook. A reduction or waiver of fees may encourage some projects to come forward which would help stimulate the local economy at a time when it is needed most.”
WHEN Padula and Carpenter were allies
They made several questionable tries
To sell one huge estate
At an inflated rate
But the deal was a scam in disguise.