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Byline: Paul Rogers
Feb. 13--Setting the stage for a major land-use battle, a coalition of environmentalists plans to begin collecting signatures today for a ballot measure to set strict new development rules for hillsides, ranches and large farms across Santa Clara County.
The Sierra Club, Greenbelt Alliance, Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society and other members of the coalition -- which already has $300,000 in the bank -- must collect 36,040 signatures from registered county voters to qualify for the November ballot, something they and their opponents expect will happen.
The measure, which farmers and ranchers fear would drive down the value of their land, would affect nearly half of Santa Clara County's 839,000 acres.
The complex proposal would essentially do two things. First, it would reduce the number of homes that could be built in unincorporated, rural areas along the east foothills of the …