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Stewards' Point

The Napa Valley Land Stewards Alliance, a property-rights group that stresses that "respect for the environment and respect for individual citizens and their property rights are equally important," has begun seeking signatures to place its Fair Payment for Public Benefit Act initiative on the local ballot. "Individual property owners should not be forced to disproportionately bear the costs and burdens of securing public benefits," the NVLSA states in its description of the initiative. "If land-use restrictions are enacted to secure some public benefit, then the cost of securing it should be apportioned fairly among those who benefit." Translation, according to the Napa Valley chapter of the Sierra Club? "If this law were to pass, any attempt by the county to enact zoning or regulatory protections for rural quality of life would trigger damage claims from developers. Our choices would boil down to paying off the land speculators and their lawyers, standing aside for bulldozers or facing budget-busting litigation." According to numerous press reports, a similar statewide measure passed by Oregon voters last year has placed that state's land-use policies, once the envy of the nation, into chaos. Stay tuned. Insiders predict a similar measure may surface in Sonoma County.

Sharpshooter Angle

Last week, the Sonoma County Agricultural Commission announced the finding of "two more viable glassy-winged sharpshooter egg masses on incoming plant shipments in Santa Rosa and Petaluma for a total of four egg mass discoveries in 2005." The insect carries Pierce's disease, which can be devastating to grape vines. The discoveries prompted the Sonoma County Farm Bureau to lash out at the GE-Free Sonoma County initiative voters will decide on later this year. "If the GMO ban were to pass, related testing on grape vines could not be done in Sonoma County," executive director Lex McCorvey said in a press release. "If scientists succeed in creating a Pierce's-resistant grape, that also would not be allowed to be grown or sold in Sonoma County." Not so, says Daniel Solnit, head of the GE-Free campaign, noting that scientists are at least 10 years from developing a Pierce's-resistant grape and the initiative is scheduled to sunset by that time. "Our initiative specifically exempts all forms of laboratory testing and research," he adds. Plus, if an emergency did develop, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors can amend the initiative by unanimous vote. Our initiative does not in any way limit our ability to respond to Pierce's," Solnit concluded.

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From the March 30-April 5, 2005 issue of the North Bay Bohemian.

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