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UPDATE: Healdsburg to Vote Monday Night on Fitch Mountain Purchase

Agreement runs 147 pages.

NOTE: This story was updated on Sunday, Dec. 9, 2012.

UPDATE, Sunday 9:30 a.m.

Healdsburg City Council will vote Monday night on an 147-page agreement with Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District to cooperate in the purchase of 200 acres on top of Fitch Mountain in Healdsburg.

To see a copy of the agreement, click on the attached PDF.

The special meeting for the vote will be 6 p.m. at Healdsburg City Hall.

Original story, 10:30 p.m. Thursday.

Healdsburg and Sonoma County residents could get an early Christmas present next week if the City Council and the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors OK a tentative deal to purchase 200 acres atop Fitch Mountain for use as a public park.

"I'm excited," said outgoing Healdsburg Mayor Gary Plass. "This is the culmination of over a decade of work."

Plass said he used to play on Fitch Mountain as a boy growing up in Healdsburg, "but I didn't realize then as I do now how beautiful it is," he said. "I'm excited not only about the recreational aspects, but also for the huge educational opportunities this will provide."

who has been spearheading two parallel sets of talks about the Fitch Mountain purchase for about a year, said if the agreement gets final approval at two public meetings next week,"it will be a historic, landmark deal for the residents of Healdsburg and Sonoma county," he said.

"Fitch Mountain is really the crown jewel of this community," he added. "Its iconic landscape has been written about and photographed for over a century."

McGuire said he sees the purchase as a "legacy" that will keep offering enjoyment and benefits for generations to come.

"This is the beginning of something great," Plass said.

The two public meetings where the Fitch Mountain approval votes will be taken are:

--Healdsburg City Council, Monday, Dec. 10, 6 p.m., Healdsburg City Hall.

--Sonoma County Board of Supervisors, Tuesday, Dec. 11, 9 a.m., Supervisor’s Chambers, Sonoma County Administration Building, 575 Administration Drive, Room 102 A, Santa Rosa.

Additionally, Healdsburg and Sonoma County officials will conduct a public open house to answer questions about the purchase at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 13 at Healdsburg Senior Center.

McGuire said the purchase on the county's end will be through the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District, which uses revenue from a voter-approved half-cent sales tax.

The actual purchase price is not yet being made public until the sale goes through, Plass said. After that, it will be public record.

"As far as I'm concerned, this is exactly what that [sales tax] money is for," Plass said. "Not just for buying easements, but for putting land into the hands of people who can use it."

The sellers are an anonymous group of investors, represented by Healdsburg real estate attorney Ed Wilson.

The city of Healdsburg has an arrangement to take over ownership of the park once it has been developed by LandPaths, a nonprofit group under contract with the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District.

The process of developing the park -- which also includes public outreach with neighbors, creation of a management plan, building trails (including one to Villa Chanticleer), forming public safety and fire prevention programs and cataloging wildlife -- is expected to take at least three years, McGuire said.

"After that, the city will own the park in perpetuity," he said.

If all the approvals go through next week, an escrow will be opened, McGuire added. If it proceeds as expected, escrow would close in April of next year. Then the Open Space District would transfer management of the 200 acres to LandPaths for the next three years.

McGuire said local leaders have been interested in the area atop Fitch Mountain for the past 14 years. Talks about a possible purchase have been on and off for about a decade, he said.

Plass said the "microclimates and foliage" on Fitch Mountain could be a source of study and education for generations -- not only for school children, but also for scientists.

"I've been told that there are things up there that you can't find anywhere else," he said. "I see a large amount of education unfolding up on the hill."

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Mike Efram December 08, 2012 at 03:37 AM
Fitch Mountain is a real gem. Good job Mike and company for making this a reality.
Dixie Jordan December 09, 2012 at 05:41 PM
Great idea! I used to hike up there when I was a kid spending summers in Healdsburg.

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