Lake County Record-Bee, January 18, 2006

I was shocked when I saw the Record-Bee headline, "The dream of Cristallago," recently. I'd call it a nightmare, not a dream!

It would be pure unmitigated sprawl, on a scale never yet seen in this county. It would devastate over 800 acres of idyllic open space, including land that is protected by the Williamson Act. It would open the door to rampant development along Highway 29, ruining the rural ambiance and scenic vistas north of Lakeport. Do we really want uncontrolled growth all over Lake County, followed by the inevitable traffic jams, strip malls, and smog? Do we want Lake County to become another Santa Rosa?

The proposed Cristallago project does not conform to either the old or new Lake County General Plans, nor to the Lakeport Area Plan. Giving it the go-ahead amounts to a vote of no confidence in the citizens of Lake County who formulated our General Plan, since it will require a General Plan amendment for this project to go forward.

It's time for the citizens of Lake County to exert more control over our land-use practices, perhaps by enacting an ordinance such as Napa County's Measure J, which was passed by voters in 1990 in order to preserve Napa County agricultural and open space lands. If someone wishes to change the land use designation for this type of land in Napa, it requires a vote of the people, known as a Measure J vote. Another possibility would be to enact an Open Space District to preserve land in Lake County.

Juliana Vidich, Kelseyville



Lake County Record-Bee, January 19, 2006

If the citizens of Lake County donıt want this community to turn into Phoenix-north (miniaturized and moister) we must take control of growth and do it immediately. We dare not allow the planning process, our only effective management tool, to be manipulated at the behest of every developer with dollar signs gleaming in his eyes. During the past several months special concessions have benefitted Vintage Faire in Middletown and Valley Oaks in Coyote Valley; more recently and more ominously, the Planning Commission recommended that the Community Development Department rewrite basic policy to facilitate the massive Cristallago subdivision.

It is time to reassert the principle that developers must work within growth parameters that have been established by the citizenry, not the other way around. For a start, the framers of the new General Plan should be given the chance to complete their draft without pressures to bend it this way or that to accommodate any particular project.

A few months ago Supervisor Ed Robey proposed that the county should pause in its approvals for new subdivisions until the new GP is operative; he received no backing from the rest of the Board. Now is the time to put this very reasonable idea back on the table, and for the Board of Supervisors to give the people of Lake County the breathing room we need to make sensible, binding decisions about the future development of the place we live in and love.

Victoria Brandon, Lower Lake



Lake County Record-Bee, January 20, 2006

I am writing to express my outrage with the initial nod of approval towards the proposed Cristallago development. That the Board of Supervisors is giving the go-ahead makes a mockery of the General Plan because of all the variances they're willing to allow (e.g. cancellation of the Williamson Act, to name just one). What's the purpose of the General Plan, then? How can they justify ever sticking to the General Plan with other developments if they allow this one to go through? Additionally, with the proposed 1,000 houses plus 200 condos, there's the possibility of at least 2,400 more people. (Lakeport city planners use 2.3 people per household, so it would be 2,760!)--that's roughtly half the population of Lakeport now! I realize the development lies outside our city limits (and therefore tax base), but the brunt of the traffic will be headed our way. Has the impact on our schools, emergency servies, roads, traffic, etc., even been considered? Is this truly what we want and need?

I am further appalled that this is being considered before we know how much water is available in our county. Supervisor Robey made a very wise suggestion which was, unbelievably, turned down by the rest of the board--let's wait and see the results of our water study to know how much water we have available before we approve large-scale developments.

Here is a perfect example of why that is necessary. Not only are 1,200 houses being considered, there's also a water-hogging golf course included! Golf courses not only take a lot of water, they also add considerable amounts of chemicals into the soil (and therefore ground water) via fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides, etc. Is that what we truly want--and need--in our county?

Yes, it's flattering that a famous person like Jack Nicklaus has come to our county. And yes, it's exciting to see all those dollar signs flashed before our eyes. But please, county officials, don't lose sight of your job to protect our county (including our water resources and environment), and, at a minimum, stick to the General Plan.

Linda Marie, Lakeport


Lake County Record-Bee, January 21, 2006

My comments are in response to recent opinions published regarding the Cristallago project which came before the Planning Commission last week.

Some facts which should be known are that Cristallago developers are requesting to combine two projects, the Las Fuentes subdivision which was approved in the 1980s for several hundred homes and the Black Rock Ridge Golf course which was approved in 1994 under the current General Plan. Approval of those two projects came from the Board of Supervisors during the 1980s and the 1994 board. The time frame for completion of this project, if approved, would be 15 years. That amounts to 80 homes a year.

The hearing the Planning Commission conducted is called a "Consideration of Disapproval," which allows the developer to discuss the project before the commission and Board of Supervisors without expending large amounts of money prior to finding out if any support exists for the project.

This is by no means a done deal. If the board allows this project to continue, the developer will have to pay for an environmental impact report, which will take about a year to complete. Once completed, the issues of Williamson Act, water and all the other environmental issues incluiding the General Plan will be considered to determine if the project can go forward.

I voted to move this issue on to the next level because I believe that no person or commission should have the power to stop any otherwise legal project before that project has an honest chance to be heard in a public forum.

The Cristallago developers have not put a project on the table yet, only an idea. I feel that the idea has a right to be heard. California is growing at a rate of 500,.000 people a year. Until that number goes down, the pressure on all communites to provide housing will continue to grow.

Cliff Swetnam, District Four Planning Commissioner


Lake County Record-Bee, April 1, 2006

Thank you Record Bee and Clearlake Observer-American for the comprehensive coverage of "Progress 2006," dated March 24th. I guess it was inevitable that this rural paradise would be discovered by developers who have run out of affordable land this side of the Bay Area.

While it seems certain that Lake County will continue to grow at an unprecedented rate, we residents have some say about the direction development will take. For discussion by the Board of Supervisors on April 4th at 1:30 p.m. is a recommendation by the Planning Staff to disapprove the largest development project ever considered by the County. It is called Cristallago. The proposed project is for an area north of Lakeport much of which is now agricultural land conserved under the Williamson Act. Approval of the project would require a General Plan amendment and rezoning of approximately 856 acres. There are already numerous other projects proposed to the County that would have less detrimental affects on the existing infrastructure and not require changes to current land use and planning documents.

I would encourage anyone interested in Lake County's future to attend this meeting on April 4th.

Judy Barnes, Clearlake Oaks


Lake County Record-Bee, April 1, 2006

Next Tuesday, April 4, at 1:30PM the Board of Supervisors will discuss the Cristallago mega-development (1200 units, 18-hole golf course). County planners are recommending that the Board reject the application immediately, because it fails to comply with basic planning documents, and also requires premature cancellation of a Williamson Act contract.

The developers will undoubtedly claim that Cristallago will benefit the county economically. Even if this dubious assumption were accurate it would not justify abandoning the principle that growth should be managed according to established rules, without manipulatiing them for the benefit of individuals. They will also declare that they seek "no special favors," just a chance to "move through the process like everyone else," with plenty of opportunities for public comments and mitigation proposals. But thereıs a poison pill buried in this argument: letting Cristallago proceed despite glaring policy noncompliance will effectively annul the possibility of rejecting it on those grounds later on. The developers might even have legal cause to sue the county if after investing substantial sums in EIR preparation they are later rejected for reasons that were obvious all along.

Anything less than immediate denial would furthermore broadcast the calamitous message that Lake County doesn't care enough about its future to make and defend its own rules. If that happens this beautiful, tranquil, neighborly place will be gone before we can blink, replaced by a ghastly clone of Rohnert Park/San Jose/Reno/Thousand Oaks.

Please come to the Board meeting, and in the meantime call your supervisor at 263 2368: ask him to defend the integrity of the planning process by rejecting Cristallago's application immediately. For more information, including links to a petition and the incisive staff report, visit

Victoria Brandon

Chair, Sierra Club Lake Group



Lake County Record-Bee, April 6, 2006

"Open for business" sign is out"

On Tuesday evening, April 4, the lake County Board of Supervisors made an unfortunate decision. The question before the board was this: "Should the Cristallago development project in north Lakeport be allowed to go forward in its current design or should the developers be asked to redesign the project so that it conforms to the county's General Plan before being allowed to proceed?"

Our county currently has a General Plan for development in place. This General Plan was adopted after a great deal of public discussion and input. The General Plan clearly lays out which areas are to be set aside for future development and which areas are not to be developed.

The Cristallago project does not conform to the current General Plan because the developers wish to build in an area that is environmentally sensitive and was designated to remain rural open land, not to be developed. Theefore, the developers were hoping that the Board of Supervisors would agree to amend the General Plan and allow them to go forward with the application process.

The developers won. In a vote of 4 to 1 (only Mr. Robey dissented) the board directed the county Planning Department tio create amendments to the General Plan that will allow this project to go forward. This means that all the work that went into creating the General Plan was meaningless because as soon as a developer with enough money comes along the board will bend the rules to give them what they want. How sad.

We all know that growth and development are coming to Lake County. The real questiion is "Who will control that growth?" Sadly, we now have our answer. The Board of Supervisors has hung out the "Open For Business" sign. Shame on them

John Lee, Lakeport


Lake County Record-Bee, March 31, 2006

A recent Record-Bee article on the massive proposed Cristallago project (March 28, 2007: ³Cristallago here by 2008?²) may have left some readers with the impression that Sierra Club Lake Group concerns about this subdivision focus on water supply issues, or that those concerns have been substantially alleviated. Both suppositions are incorrect.

As Supervisor Anthony Farringtonıs quoted statements make clear, neither this development nor other North Lakeport projects (some already approved) can proceed without major improvements to the existing water treatment plant or construction of a new one -- but whether or not water capacity expansion takes place numerous other environmental issues remain.

Does dense residential development belong on this site at all, which is situated entirely outside the North Lakeport Community Growth Boundary? Will the project have adverse effects on neighboring farmers, and on the surrounding rural community? Does the region really need another thirsty, chemical-laden golf course? What burdens would such an immense subdivision place on roads, schools, fire and policing capacity, and other infrastructure? Would replacing tranquil green hills with rooftops and asphalt be esthetically lamentable? Will disturbing the propertyıs serpentine soils have adverse effects on air quality? All of these questions, and many more, will be addressed in the Environmental Impact Report now in preparation; the Lake Group expects to examine that document diligently, and to take an active part in the extended public dialog to follow.

In the meantime, although the revisions made in Cristallagoıs blueprints seem generally advantageous, and although the Sierra Club appreciates any opportunity for discussion with the developers as the project evolves, neither the modest reduction in the requested number of total units (from 1200 to 975) nor the proportional increase in the resort component are sufficient to appreciably alter our original negative opinion: we still think this proposal is a prescription for sprawl, and still gravely doubt that its construction would be beneficial to either the citizenry or the environment of Lake County.

Victoria Brandon, Chair, Sierra Club Lake Group