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SMART rail district buys 56 acres of wetlands near tracks

Passengers riding the new rail line between Sonoma and Marin counties may one day be able to spot a black-tailed deer or a night heron on wetlands owned by the Sonoma Marin Area Rail Transit system.

Sonoma County power agency plan scrambles political allegiances

Plans for a public power agency and the renewable energy projects that could sprout with it appear to have scrambled politics in Sonoma County.

$24.5 million deal to save Preservation Ranch

A national conservation group has reached an agreement to buy nearly 20,000 acres of timberland in northwestern Sonoma County, a move that derails the long-disputed, forest-to-vineyards conversion project pushed by CalPERS, the giant state workers pension fund.

Lawsuit seeks access to Petaluma’s Lafferty Ranch

A lawsuit seeking public access to Lafferty Ranch on Sonoma Mountain was filed Thursday, rekindling one of the most contentious political issues in Petaluma history.

Sonoma County zoning board rejects beach parking fee proposal

A Sonoma County zoning board Thursday soundly rejected the state’s application to expand the number of beaches along the Sonoma Coast where visitors would be charged for parking. The unanimous decision of the Board of Zoning Adjustments was expected, and likely sets up another showdown on the contentious issue before county supervisors.

Sonoma County judge strikes down Roblar Road quarry OK

A Sonoma County judge has struck down the approval for a controversial rock quarry west of Cotati, saying key parts of the environmental impact report were inadequate. The final ruling, issued Thursday by Judge Elliot Daum, could derail the project by requiring the county and quarry developer John Barella to conduct a new environmental report, or overhaul large parts of the existing one. Opponents of the 70-acre Roblar Road quarry, including neighbors and environmentalists, welcomed the decision.

SMART ignores state warning, sets rules for repeal effort

The Sonoma-Marin Area Rapid Transit District adopted a legally questionable ordinance Wednesday that puts some restrictions on a citizens group’s effort to repeal the quarter-cent sales tax. It would require the group, RepealSMART, to put on its petitions a cover sheet written by SMART attorneys. Still unresolved: Whether opponents need to collect 15,000 or 30,000 signatures.

Huffman launches bid for Congress

Calling 2012 “a year of change,” Assemblyman Jared Huffman today officially started his run for Congress with an online speech and roll call of current and former local elected officials supporting his candidacy. Watch the video of his announcement — and see who is supporting the San Rafael Democrat.

High stakes over next Coastal Commission director

Replacing the Coastal Commission’s longtime executive director, Peter Douglas, likely will be a process influenced by intense lobbying over the future of the agency that regulates development on one of the world’s most valuable coastlines.

Plenty at stake in Tuesday’s election

Two years ago, candidates backed by environmentalists helped wrest control of the city councils in Santa Rosa and Petaluma. On Tuesday, candidates backed by business interests hope to regain power in those cities, and also deflect a political tilt on the Board of Supervisors, where a business-friendly majority still reigns.