Congratulations on appearance before the Dry Creek Valley Citizens Advisory Council (DCVCAC) to discuss your proposed use permit, rezoning application, or request for a General Plan amendment. Your participation can give you important insight into the reaction your project will generate from concerned neighbors and citizens in the Dry Creek Valley.
This guide is intended to help you prepare for your hearing by describing the process, and listing the types of questions you might expect to hear from the DCVCAC. If you have further questions or concerns, please contact the DCVCAC Chair.
Frequently Asked Questions
The DCVCAC is an advisory body formed by the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors. The group is chartered with the following mission statement:
The mission of the DCVCAC (“Council”) is to act as a bridge for communication between the County and local residents and businesses, and the general public on local planning decisions affecting the Dry Creek Valley.
The DCVCAC provides a forum for public expression and for making advisory recommendations to the County of Sonoma and its Permit and Resource Management Department, Board of Zoning Adjustments, Planning Commission, and Board of Supervisors on applications for use permits, rezonings, and general plan amendments in the Dry Creek Valley.
The three main functions of the DCVCAC are to discuss, review and make recommendations regarding development proposals located in the Dry Creek Valley specifically related to:
- Use permits
- Rezoning Applications
- General Plan Amendments
The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors appoints five members to the DCVCAC: two representatives from the Dry Creek Valley Association (DCVA), two representatives from the Winegrowers of the Dry Creek Valley (WDCV), and one general member designated by the Fourth District Supervisor. The DCVA and the WDVA are the two oldest and largest groups representing residents and property owners in the valley, each have been in existence for over 25 years with more than 150 members each. All appointees are registered voters within the referral area boundary.
In addition, the Fourth District County Planning Commissioner may attend meetings as an ex-officio member. The Planning Commissioner is not eligible to vote at DCVCAC meetings.
The DCVCAC has two officers (Chair and Vice Chair) and one private position (Secretary). The Chair is responsible for conducting meetings and setting the DCVCAC agenda. The Vice Chair supports the Chair in business matters. The Secretary is an independent contract position and is hired and compensated by the DCVCAC. The Secretary is responsible for circulating referrals and correspondence to DCVCAC members, public posting of the meeting agendas, attending the DCVCAC meetings and preparing the minutes of each meeting, as well as maintaining files. Officers serve two year terms, with elections each January. Officers cannot serve more than two consecutive terms.
The Chair of the DCVCAC, with the assistance of the DCVCAC Secretary, selects projects and application proposals’ for review based on his or her judgment of the potential impacts that the project may have on the Dry Creek Valley watershed.
The advantage to appearing before the DCVCAC is when your project is only in the conceptual stage is that you can get a sense of the community’s response to your plans before spending a lot of time and money on a full-fledged design.
The disadvantage is that the DCVCAC is more likely to be unwilling to recommend approval of your plans/proposal without seeing more details, so they may ask you to reappear when you have completed your planning. The risk of appearing late in your project planning process is that the DCVCAC may recommend significant changes, or even recommend that your project be denied approval.
For projects that may generate community opposition of concerns, you might consider holding local community/neighborhood meetings before filing for a permit application. Most projects are handled in one hearing; however, it may be to your advantage to return to the DCVCAC for consideration of your revised plan.
What Are the Key Areas of Concern that the Dry Creek Valley Citizens Advisory Council Members are Likely to Raise?
Concerns will inherently vary, based on the type of project or proposal being reviewed. Often these topics come up during Commissions meetings:
- Traffic generation, particularly along windy and well worn County roads
- Event Activity
- Scope of use permits
- Water use
- Sanitation and other matters of health and safety
- Well, septic, drainage and ground water questions
- Visual impacts
- Appropriateness of project given zoning and other land use designations
- Preservation of trees and native habitats
- Other environmental impacts
The DCVCAC generally meets at 6:00 pm on the third Thursday of each month at the City of Healdsburg Council Chambers, 401 Grove Street, Healdsburg, CA unless there are no items to review. Occasionally, the DCVCAC will re-schedule a meeting on another date or location, if there is a holiday, lack of quorum or meeting conflict. The agendas for the DCVCAC meetings are posted on the bulletin board at City Hall in Healdsburg and also at the bulletin board outside the Clerk of the Board of Supervisors office in Santa Rosa. You may also submit a written request to be sent the agendas to:
Secretary of the DCVCAC
c/o Board of Supervisors 4th District
575 Administration Drive, Room 102A,
Santa Rosa, CA 95403
A regular meeting begins with a roll call and the approval of the minutes, followed by an opportunity for members of the public to address the DCVCAC on matters not otherwise on the agenda.
Typically a series of proposed projects and applications are then reviewed. Finally, the DCVCAC considers administrative issues, and reports from ad hoc committees.
Applicants or the representatives make a brief presentation before the DCVCAC, followed by a period for DCVCAC members to ask questions. The public is then given an opportunity to ask questions and/or comment on the project. The public may also submit written comments on a project prior to the meeting to the Secretary of the DCVCAC at the address noted above or submit them at the DCVCAC meeting.
The Chair will then close the public comment portion of the review, and DCVCAC members will then discuss the project and pass a recommendation. Please note that once the public comment portion of the review is closed, any additional comments or answers to questions from the DCVCAC members should be addressed through the Chair.
Recommendations from the DCVCAC require a 4/5ths vote and are advisory to the Sonoma County land use decision-makers for the project, which is generally the Board of Zoning Adjustments for Use Permits or the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors for Rezonings and General Plan Amendments.
The best presentations begin with a complete application package. DCVCAC members often receive abbreviated project applications from the County, and if there is additional information that you would like them to have, please work with the Council Secretary to get the materials to the DCVCAC members in advance of the meeting.
A concise presentation is often better than a comprehensive one. Assume that the DCVCAC members have reviewed the package of information that describes your project, so your description of the application can be brief. It is helpful to describe exactly what approval you are seeking (i.e. a zoning change or a use permit) and what level of project planning you have completed (is this a conceptual review, or are there well-developed plans?).
Focus on the impacts that your project will have and how you intend to mitigate them. What concerns are neighbors of the project likely to have? Have you notified them of your plans, or held a meeting with them yet?
DCVCAC members will focus on their concerns during the question and answer period, so it is not necessary to try and anticipate and answer every concern in your presentation. If you would like guidance regarding preparation for your appearance, don’t hesitate to contact the Chair in advance of the meeting.
During the open comment period, members of the audience will have the opportunity to ask questions and state their opinions about your proposal. We recommend that you answer questions forthrightly and concisely. You should not feel obligated to respond to statements of opinion.
The Chair will help moderate this portion of the hearing. If the project is likely to engender a level of controversy or extensive feedback from the community, the Chair will likely establish guidelines for the public comment period, potentially including time limits for each speaker.
The DCVCAC Secretary will capture all aspects of the project review in the meeting minutes. Minutes are distributed to the Sonoma County Fourth District Supervisor and to the County’s Planning department.
One of the DCVCAC members appointed by the County is also charged with meeting directly with planning staff to review specific projects. The Sonoma County Planning Commissioner from the Fourth District is usually in attendance to hear discussion of projects, but will not take part in the question period.
Please remember that DCVCAC reviews are advisory in nature, and that you can certainly continue seeking approval for your project at the County. However, the DCVCAC strives to reflect the concerns and sense of opinion of the Dry Creek Valley, and you could consider putting this information to good use.
Can you modify your proposal to address the significant concerns raised at the hearing? If you choose to do so, you might also consider asking to appear before the DCVCAC again to review your modified plans.