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Lafferty Swap Revisited

By Paula Harris

TO RECAP, the convoluted and controversial land-swap plan went like this: Millionaire rancher Peter Pfendler, who owns Moon Ranch, would get city-owned mountain property and unspoilt watershed in Lafferty Ranch plus $1.4 million in exchange for Moon.

The Petaluma City Council majority and other prominent local individuals were all for it.

But the plan began to unravel when swap proponents bowed to public pressure and arranged bus tours to both ranches. When people saw what the city was asking them to give away, many rebelled against the idea.

Public opinion polls ran 3-1 against the swap.

After much wrangling and divisiveness, the City Council eventually endorsed a plan allowing voters to decide the fate of Lafferty. In three days, Citizens for Lafferty garnered more than enough signatures to put the measure on the ballot. Swap proponents prepared two countermeasures, under the name Committee for Choice, which contained language that seemed designed to confuse the voter.

No one would say who was behind these measures, but they were crafted by Matt Hudson, Pfendler's lawyer.

After the Committee for Choice filed the initiatives, city and county officials discovered that more than 2,000 signatures were bogus, and the initiative never made it to the ballot. Pfendler dropped pursuing the swap. A state probe began, and all information was later handed over to the Sonoma County District Attorney's Office.

Meanwhile, city officials have been involved in lengthy and often frustrating negotiations with Lafferty Ranch neighbors over how to institute public access to the property.

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From the Nov. 26-Dec. 3, 1997 issue of the Sonoma County Independent.

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