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Dog flap nearly stops Sonoma acquisition of Montini Preserve

  • The 98-acre Montini preserve rises over the northern edge of the city of Sonoma. (PD file)

A heated dispute Monday over whether dogs should be allowed on property that forms Sonoma's backdrop nearly derailed the City Council from formally authorizing acquisition of the site.

The council voted 3-2 to accept ownership of the Montini Preserve, a 98-acre hillside parcel that promises to open up sweeping vistas of the city to the public.

Councilman Steve Barbose, however, argued that the city should not move forward Monday with the transfer unless leashed dogs are permitted on the property.

“This isn't the deal I thought we were making,” Barbose said. “It's that simple for me.”

Barbose directed his comments at staff members of Sonoma County's Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District, including General Manager Bill Keene, who were present Monday.

The district, which currently controls the property, has a management plan for it that includes a prohibition on pets, including dogs.

The provision was put in place in 2008 when the Open Space District was considering transferring the property to California State Parks, which does not allow dogs at places under its authority. The state's budget problems derailed that plan.

Keene appeared sympathetic to dogs being allowed at Montini. He noted dogs are permitted at other properties acquired by the Open Space District, including at Healdsburg Ridge Open Space Reserve.

Barbose and Council Member Laurie Gallian said Keene should have agreed to a provision allowing dogs at Montini simultaneously to the council signing off on the terms Monday night.

“I don't see why we can't be consolidated in our causes here,” Gallian said.

But Keene presented the issue as a lengthy one, demanding additional environmental review, and he said the Open Space District staff was “not going to spend our time and effort to amend” the document.

“That's really an issue you should take on as a city,” he said.

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