By Alec Peters
Much of the 472 acre Graywood Ranch in Kenwood off of Highway 12 was sold to an investment group with plans for a hotel and resort.
Papers for a limited liability company, Graywood Ranch, LLC, were filed with the State of California on June 16, the same day a grant deed was recorded for a sale of a large portion of the ranch. The seller, real estate investor Clem Carinalli, said his portion of the property sold to Graywood Ranch, LLC, amounted to approximately 2/3 of the whole ranch. As of press time, it is not known if local resident Lendal Gray and his family still control the remaining parts of Graywood Ranch. Mr. Gray did not return phone calls.
Another limited liability company was created on June 16, the Graywood Hotel, LLC. The contact person listed for both the Graywood Ranch and Graywood Hotel LLCs is Mark Harmon, a corporate officer for Auberge Resorts, a high-end company that runs a variety of resorts, including Auberge du Soleil in Napa, the Esperanza Hotel in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, the San Ysidro Ranch in Santa Barbara, and the CordeValle private retreat near San Jose. Phone calls to the Mill Valley-based Auberge Resorts were not returned.
Sonoma County Supervisor Mike Cale said representatives of the investment group met with him to discuss plans for a resort, restaurant and spa. Cale said the plans they described looked like it would fit into what the county's general plan calls for regarding the Graywood Ranch property.
According to county documents in Graywood Ranch's planning file at the Permit and Resource Management Department (PRMD), in 1984 the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors approved Graywood Ranch for possibly having, among other things, a 36-room inn, a winery, and 18 additional rural residential units. Although no action was ever taken to develop the property as approved, the project was reaffirmed by specific language adopted by the county's 1989 general plan. The property has a "K" zoning designation - a Recreation and Visitor-Serving Commercial District. The purpose of this zoning is to encourage a compatible blend of recreation and tourist-commercial uses.
Cale said that any resort project will eventually have to be approved by the county and reviewed by the appropriate local and state regulatory agencies. Cale said he wouldn't be surprised if an Environmental Impact Report was required.
Much of the last decade has seen the different owners of Graywood embroiled in litigation over how best to divide the property. Over time members of the Gray family had sold their interest in the ranch to third parties. The case is due to go to trial in July, but on June 16 the court was advised that a settlement was pending.
In the court file, documents bring up many questions as to whether the plans for Graywood approved over 15 years ago would still fly now, especially now that it's time for a review and update of the general plan. A March 17, 1999 letter by engineer Leroy Carlenzoli, representing local developer Dennis Hunter, questioned, among other things, the availability of water. "…[T]here is no way at this time to determine what ultimately will be approved by the numerous regulating agencies and the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors when specific plans to develop the property are presented," wrote Carlenzoli, "It is entirely possible, if not likely, that less than the originally proposed number of residential lots will ever be approved let alone the other more intensive uses, the winery and the restaurant/inn."
A selling price for Graywood Ranch, LLC's purchase was not disclosed, but a court referee assigned to the court case estimated last year that if the 472 acre ranch was sold as a whole, it would command a price of between 6.5 and 7 million dollars.