Big-box back on council agenda
The Staples effect is still reverberating through City Hall and now has a return spot on the City Council agenda.
At its Monday, May 2, meeting, the council will begin a discussion prompted in part by citizen sentiment on whether or not to modify the city's development code to address concerns about big box stores, chain stores and "formula" businesses.
At an April 4 council session, more than 20 people showed up to speak for or against what some warned could become a "big-box" invasion.
The public debate was sparked by news that the Staples office supply company had signed a lease for the former Holder Ford building at the intersection of West Napa Street and Riverside Drive. A new Staples store is expected to open in the 14,400-square-foot building later this year.
Opposition to the store has focused on concern it will drive local businesses out of the market, specifically Sonoma Valley Office Supply, Patt's Copy World and Copy Store & More. Other critics said chains and big-box stores violate the small-town milieu of Sonoma.
But the council was unanimous in opposing any move to place a moratorium on Staples or other national chains, a move that would have required passage of an emergency measure based an immediate threat to the health, safety and welfare of the public.
Still, at least two council members expressed interest in revisiting zoning regulations and the development code with an eye to considering a more holistic review process for future commercial developments that would address the totality of social, economic, aesthetic and cultural impacts. That process is sometimes defined as a Community Impact Report.
With that in mind, city staff created a list of future possible policy elements, including:
• The issues of chain stores and "formula" businesses in general.
• Chain stores over a certain size, as in "big-boxes."
• Any big-box store, chain or not.
• Chain stores in or near the Plaza, or within the Historic Overlay District.
• The possibility of adopting a Community Impact Report requirement.
• Exploring how new zoning regulations would be balanced with the city's need to promote economic development.
A staff report on the subject suggested that if the council wants to move forward with the issue, it might be wise to refer it to the Planning Commission for initial research and discussion.
Other items on the City Council agenda include six proclamations, recognitions and presentations; public hearings on changes to the city purchasing procedure section of the municipal code; discussion and possible action on a negative declaration (meaning there is no significant environmental impact) on the proposed pedestrian/bicycle bridge over Fryer Creek; and discussion and possible first reading of the previously discussed changes to Sonoma's municipal sign regulations.
The City Council will meet in closed session at 5:30 p.m. to discuss property negotiations and anticipated litigation. The open public meeting will begin at 6 p.m., in the Community Meeting Room, 177 First St. W.