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Healdsburg growth panel may include non-city resident

Jim Winston authored and helped pass a voter approved measure in 2000 that restricted the number of new dwellings in Healdsburg to 30 per year. Winston, who is concerned about rapid growth, now wants to serve on a committee that will consider relaxing the growth rate.


Jim Winston lives about a mile outside Healdsburg city limits, but he’s had outsized effect on determining how the town grows.

He wrote and helped pass a voter-approved measure in 2000 that restricted the number of new homes in Healdsburg to 30 per year.

Now he wants to serve on a city committee that will consider whether to relax the growth limit, thus provoking a controversy over whether a non-resident should be determining how many homes are built in Healdsburg.

“I do live just outside city limits,” he said of his hilltop home on 46 acres off Limerick Lane. “It would seem to me under the circumstance an exception could be made, based on expertise and involvement.”

Healdsburg City Council members debated the question this week and eventually decided that one member from outside the city — but within Healdsburg school district boundaries — will be eligible to sit on the eight-member committee that will weigh whether to loosen the growth cap. Winston lives in the school district, but there is no guarantee he will be selected.

“Will he look at it objectively?” Mayor Gary Plass asked of Winston’s views on how many homes should be built.

Healdsburg voters a dozen years ago overwhelmingly approved the measure that restricts the number of new market-rate homes to 30 annually, or 90 in a three-year period.

But city planners say higher density housing envisioned for the central downtown will be difficult to develop without lifting the cap, since only a certain number of building permits can be allocated.

Winston told The Press Democrat he fears the committee scrutinizing the housing cap is stacked with people who are “part of the growth machine” and will come up with a recommendation that will double, or triple the growth rate.

“It’s not broken,” he said of the growth ordinance. “The only reason they want to change it is so we can have an explosion of growth in the gateway to the community that will affect our small-town character.”

He said he is flexible to some change, but wants to avoid the type of rapid growth that Windsor and Rohnert Park went through.

Mayor Plass said review of the ordinance is warranted. “It’s time to take a look at it: what worked and what didn’t and what we can tweak to make it better. Does it still meet the present day needs?”

He said the reality is that since so-called Measure M passed, “there’s been little, or no growth. So it did it’s job. Or maybe it’s the economy.”

Plass said Healdsburg has natural constraints to growth including the Russian River and peripheral agricultural zones, and there is no intent to expand the current urban boundary.

“We’re doing what the voters want us to do — build infill,” he said.

Winston previously hired a consultant as part of an ultimately unsuccessful effort to challenge geological studies for Saggio Hills, the proposed luxury resort and housing project approved for the north end of town.

He is a former floor covering company owner and amateur race car driver who also helped develop small, single-family subdivisions in Southern California

“For me, the issue is balance and process,” Winston told the City Council this week. He said that none of the five committee members who studied the future development of the downtown area were involved in supporting the growth management ordinance.

“No one sitting at the table can represent the voter,” he said. “It’s not in the best interests of where we need to go as a community.”

The body that will take on the growth question is an expansion of the the Central Healdsburg Avenue Special Study Area Committee. It is composed of City Councilman Tom Chambers, Planning Commissioners Jerry Eddinger and Phil Luks and public representatives Ray Holley and Jon Worden.

City Council members previously decided they wanted to expand the committee, which looked at the future of the downtown, to eight members who would take on the issue of whether to relax growth limits.

Councilman Jim Wood was added with two more members still to be chosen.

After the committee makes a recommendation, the growth question could be put before voters as early as the November ballot.

Mayor Plass said he initially told Winston that the committee is restricted to city residents. City Councilman Steve Babb said committee members should be residents “so we don’t get tangled up into other boundaries.”

But Councilman Wood said Winston’s input would be valuable and he should be interviewed as a potential committee candidate. He said later he was not specifically advocating Winston be selected.

Council members Chambers and Susan Jones said they could see the benefit of allowing someone with Winston’s expertise to sit on the committee, yet also see the point that it should be limited to Healdsburg residents.

In the end council members agreed to allow applicants to come from outside the city, but confined to the boundaries of the Healdsburg Unified School District. They extended by two weeks the deadline for applications to serve on the committee.

Chambers noted that Winston “will have an impact whether or not he’s on the committee.”

Winston vowed in an interview that if there is a recommendation for a number of new dwelling units that threatens Healdsburg’s “small town character and quality of life, I will run a campaign against it.”

Warren Watkins, a retired math teacher who filed a lawsuit challenging the environmental study on Saggio Hills, urged the council to allow people outside city limits to serve on the committee, and in particular Winston.

“Winston clearly knows as much as anyone about the issue,” he said.

“People who live in Dry Creek and Alexander Valley always say. ‘I live in Healdsburg.’ They consider themselves Healdsburg people,” Watkins said.

You can reach Staff Writer Clark Mason at 521-5214 or clark.mason@pressdemocrat.com.

13 Responses to “Healdsburg growth panel may include non-city resident”

  1. Skippy says:

    I have heard the same wild assertions made by the stay-the-heck-away-from-my-little-paradise no-growthers for the past 36 years.
    None of the apocalyptic predictions have come to pass, and none will.
    Growthophobics are the ultimate 1% elitists.
    NIMBYism ignores reality and a great truth that should have been learned from nature long before you started posting on WSC.
    “Grow or die.”
    It doesn’t get more irrefutable than that.

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  2. Chuck G says:


    I’m all for preserving the land we call home, but I will love watching you eat crow in 30 yrs when open land is turned into vineyards, box stores,and homes with RV parking on the side. You may be taking a few of those valiums yourself when a dream becomes your reality!

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  3. Skippy says:

    I have a suggestion to put your troubled mind at ease.
    Drive to Robt. L. Stevenson State park, find a shady spot to park, and take the leisurely hike to the top of Mt. St. Helena.
    When you look West you will see a tiny scratch some miles away with a few vehicles moving along it.
    That is Hwy 101.
    The minute patches of buildings every 15 miles or so are Healdsburg, Geyserville and Cloverdale.
    Now slowly turn your gaze and take in the totally undeveloped and unpopulated vistas that stretch out of sight in every other direction.
    It takes some effort to even see the mark of Man upon the land from there.
    The hysterical reaction of the “I got mine” elitists to the radical idea of a home being built within 100 miles of theirs borders on the insane, or at least the unhinged.
    Take a Valium like a normal person and write back when the panicked hallucinations subside.

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  4. Chuck G says:

    Here’s an idea for all of you, why not just build on every square inch of the cities, counties, towns, anywhere and everywhere, vineyards and homes. Why not just destroy the beauty of Sonoma County all at once so we don’t have to hear about it anymore.

    Oh by the way, we won’t be leaving much for the future generations that will live here in Sonoma County which will now be a metropolis!

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  5. In the Know says:

    Oh yes, that’s what Healdburg needs a self-serving, opinionated individual who will go to any lengths, inlcuding attacking the professionalism of others and hiring fraudulent people to get “his” way, and try to disguise it as community concern….please Jim, you fool no one, but yourself!

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  6. Economically Vibrant Healdsburg says:

    Does everything have to become a battle? What happened to reason discourse about the key issues facing our future? In fact, the CHASSAC process invited significant public participation in crafting an image of future development in town and many Healdsburg residents weighed in through workshops and meetings. The overarching aim was to promote long term economic diversity and viability for the City and there was solid consensus on the ultimate framework generated by the CHASSAC process.

    The notion of promoting a different kind of future development is not the agenda of a few — however blocking it seems to be. How can it be possible for one person, by virtue of their wealth and intractability, have the power to dictate and attempt to control what happens in a community? Doesn’t the word community connote a collective view and desire? I could take issue with the residency of this potential committee member, however I value the input and willing contribution of anyone who cares about the town and its future. What concerns me is the rigidity of thought and heretofore non-collaborative approach taken by this individual, and the ultimatum-like threats included in this article. My hope is that the City will be looking at what will contribute to a functional Committee, not just a politically correct one.

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  7. Skippy says:

    A carpetbagging NIMBY who left the wreckage of his past behind so he could tell his new neighbors how they should live.
    Every landowner within sight of his estate/prison should set up bright lights that shine in his windows all night long.
    Being an annoying jerk works both ways.

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  8. Ross Hallett says:

    Perhaps now offers sensibility for change on our municipal opinion platforms. Council and otherwise…

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  9. Steveguy says:

    I lived just outside the limits, no way should they allow a non-taxpayer delving into City business.

    Besides, who needs a committee ? Here’s the plan – Stack and pack multi-use near a future train station, with round-a-bouts. Some luxury condo’s next to the very affordable housing element. (Great sales pitch) But also include a coffee shop on every corner, with a yoga studio, nail and hair salons, butchers, bakers and candlestick makers.

    Ohh, and make it bicycle and pedestrian friendly. Ohh, and make sure the developers are hand-picked, and used to taking the money and running.

    Local builders need not apply. There will be no permits for anything else. With more and more restrictions on adding second units to both city and county properties (that is a very cost-effective way to get infill) they put all the eggs in one transit-oriented ‘solution’.

    What do the fees and requirements cost in Healdsburg for an 800 square/foot Granny Unit ? I think it is over $80,000 per unit. The County fees are very high with ridiculous ever stricter rules with no services rendered other than the schools tax. Granny units ( nowadays grandkid’s or renter units ) are very good way to encourage in-fill of affordable housing. The fees ruin the incentive. The developer had pockets full of cash for fees and other things.

    The Progressives are in bed with the developers, who would have ever thought that ? Only ‘their’ hand picked ones, the ones they like to ‘rub elbows’ with. Redevelopment funds were their plum pie.

    Sorry for my over-punctuation.

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  10. Harry Martin says:

    Planning is vital. Unplanned growth is not good. But so much of what is called concern for the environment or calls for growth control is thinly disguised nimbiism. This is pretentious elitism. It is an effort to make sure property isn’t accessible or affordable to the hard working average citizen. Those who sit amidst their acreage and million dollar homes are simply afraid of being….common.

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  11. Farmer West says:

    Why would the city appoint anyone having such a strong bias. It is easy just to say no. It is much harder to say how, where and what is it going to look like. The city must grow to survive. Please appoint someone that can take a thoughtful approach to growth.

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  12. bear says:

    I have little sympathy for a guy who made big money doing LA subdivisions, now lives in a rural castle handing out advice like he knows it all.

    Likely he’s trying to protect his view.

    But people outside the city – especially within the urban bounday – do deserve a say. And the hidden issue is whether Healdsburg’s water, sewer, police, fire, schools can handle any growth in this economy brought on by the same people who now whine.

    Pay for your public services or shut up.

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  13. Grey Whitmore says:

    I’m sorry, “he” wants to avoid explosive growth?

    I was under the impression that this was an issue for ALL of the citizens of the effected area to decide.

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