By Alec Peters
If approved by the county, 183 acres of Graywood Ranch off of Highway 12 in Kenwood will be home to a 50-room inn, a restaurant, 11 private homesites, a winery, and 25 acres of vineyard and orchards.
A development group bought the property last June, leaving local resident Lendal Gray and his family with approximately 300 acres of the original Graywood Ranch. The investment group is led by Mark Harmon, principal of Auberge Resorts, a company that also runs Auberge du Soleil in the Napa Valley, the El Dorado Hotel in Sonoma, and the San Ysidro Ranch in Santa Barbara.
A planning application for the project was filed January 30 with the county's Permit and Resource Management Department.
In 1984, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors approved Graywood Ranch for a 36-room inn, a winery, and 18 additional rural residential homes.
Although no action was ever taken to develop the property as approved, the project was reaffirmed in 1989 by specific language adopted in Sonoma County's General Plan. The property has a "K" zoning designation, defined as a Recreation and Visitor-Serving Commercial District. The purpose of this zoning is to encourage a compatible blend of recreation and tourist-commercial uses.
Though the planning application was filed too late for review by the Kenwood Press, Harmon gave some of the project details in an interview. According to Harmon, he is asking for a 50-room country inn, essentially trading more inn rooms for some of the homesites he technically would be allowed to develop. The inn, according to Harmon, would be laid out in cottage style, located about a mile from Highway 12, mostly hidden by woodlands.
Harmon said the inn would also have a restaurant, which would be open to the public. Harmon said he is asking the county to approve a 45,000 case winery, which would be located about 2,000 feet from Highway 12 at the base of a hill. Twenty-five acres of vineyard and orchard would be planted on the valley floor, said Harmon, but planted around about a dozen Valley Oaks which Harmon plans on preserving.
As for the homesites, Harmon said each site would be from 3-5 acres, and homes would have certain building and landscaping restrictions. There would be no building along the ridgetops, said Harmon.
Harmon said that two-thirds of the 183 acres will remain as open space, and the highest ridge would be made accessible only by trails. A northern portion of the property would be dedicated for the Bay Area Ridge trail to provide a link in the trail from Annadel State Park across Sonoma Valley to Hood Mountain.
According to Harmon, the planning application includes a number of studies, including tree, archaeological, rare plant, water and traffic studies. As for the need for an Environmental Impact Report (EIR), Harmon hoped the studies he submitted would provide enough information, but that the decision for an EIR would be up to the county. Back in June of last year, Supervisor Mike Cale said he wouldn't be surprised if an EIR would be required for the project.
Public hearings will eventually be held on the project.