The Sonoma City Council could take a significant step on Monday toward acquiring a 98-acre hillside parcel that one day could become a hiking destination offering dramatic views of the city.
The Montini Preserve forms much of the city's backdrop and is historically significant because it was part of the foothills purchased in 1850 by Gen. Mariano Vallejo.
Sonoma County's Open Space District purchased the property and an adjacent 59-acre conservation easement in 2005 for $13.9 million, including a $1.15 million contribution from the City of Sonoma.
State parks initially planned to take over the preserve but when those plans fell through amid the state's budget crisis Sonoma city leaders began weighing whether to acquire the property.
The city would not have to pay for the property. But it would have to pick up the costs for maintaining it. Whether the city can afford to take on continued maintenance is the key issue under consideration.
The Sonoma Ecology Center submitted a proposal to the city to do the maintenance work for as much as $15,000 annually, money that would come from the city's general fund.
That does not include $10,000 in initial start-up costs related to environmental review.
The City Council on Monday will review the cost estimates while weighing whether to proceed with the acquisition.
“It's a big step,” Planning Director David Goodison said Friday. “We're asking the council to express what their intent is.”
Goodison said the city would have to contract out the maintenance work because the city's Public Works Department does not have the required staffing or budget.
The Open Space District would continue to pay for maintenance on the preserve for another three years under the current proposal.
Mayor Laurie Gallian on Friday said that she is leaning toward supporting the acquisition. She said that the city could seek more bids for the maintenance work or partner with agencies to help keep costs down.