FISCAL SPONSORSHIP

News, information and frank talk from Greg Colvin and friends

Hometown fiscal sponsorship

by | Dec 20, 2020

PETALUMA, CALIF. — Over three decades, I’ve had many opportunities to merge my professional and home life in Petaluma, Calif.. Five years ago, a nearby 58-acre suburban sprawl development proposal took a critical turn, and I saw the need to start a fiscally sponsored environmental project. 

With dozens of my neighbors, I’d been involved since 2005 in opposing the construction of 93 luxury homes on historic ranch land at the outskirts of town. Not only was the pristine land a beautiful gateway between Petaluma and the surrounding dairy farms, it also was habitat for the threatened California red-legged frog, had two tributaries of Kelly Creek running through it, and was right next to Helen Putnam County Regional Park.

As 2021 begins, we’re hopeful everything will fall into place. The City Council will have to approve the Environmental Impact Report on our combined parkland-housing proposal so we can close escrow, allowing us to acquire the heart of the ranch, transfer it to Sonoma County Regional Parks, and begin building trails and facilities for public use, probably in 2022.

In 2016, we needed an entity with 501(c)(3) tax status to move beyond “fighting” the development and assemble resources — tax-deductible grants, legal counsel, landscape design — to prepare an alternative vision and negotiate buying-out all or most of the land from the property owner. So, we created a Model A direct project within Earth island Institute, an established Bay Area fiscal sponsor, and named it the Kelly Creek Protection Project.

Part of our challenge was to restore the wetlands so that future uses, residential, recreational or both, wouldn’t increase storm water runoff or degrade the water quality downstream.

After a July 2017 meeting where City Council members soundly criticized the developer’s latest plan to build 66 homes on the land, we determined we were in a good position to negotiate a compromise. The result was a purchase and sale agreement with two buyout options: $11 million for the entire 58 acres, or $4 million for three-quarters of the ranch, including the most sensitive and historic portions. The partial buyout would limit the builder to constructing 28 homes on the remaining 14 acres.

With Earth Island sponsorship, we received contributions from 200 donors and some large donor-advised fund grants, and qualified for a $1 million Sonoma County matching grant. We raised more than $4 million and made the escrow deposit for the three-quarter buyout, but were unable to reach the full $11 million purchase price by the December 1, 2018, deadline. We believe that the community indicated by its response that it was satisfied with the less expensive option.

As 2021 begins, we’re hopeful everything will fall into place. The City Council will have to approve the Environmental Impact Report on our combined parkland-housing proposal so we can close escrow, allowing us to acquire the heart of the ranch, transfer it to Sonoma County Regional Parks, and begin building trails and facilities for public use, probably in 2022.

Our local Petaluma newspaper ran a cover story about our progress with this exciting, fiscally sponsored (to the max) project:

More about the project is found on the website.


PHOTOS:  Greg Colvin and neighbors’ environmental concerns about 58 acres in their community morphed into Kelly Creek Protection Project, fiscally sponsored by Earth Island Institute. Project principals (above) in front of a Scott Ranch site barn, from left, Peter Cohn, KCPP secretary-treasurer; Jared Emerson-Johnson, KCPP assistant director and Greg’s stepson; Greg’s wife, Donna Emerson; Greg, KCPP director; and Greg’s son, Chris Colvin.