Big-box scare tactics: self-defeating nonsense
Fear of loss is one of the most powerful human motivators. It is unparalleled in rousing people to action. Recently, Sonomans were confronted with the specter of losing our city's charm to the dreaded "big-box."
Before the entire city follows the staff and some members of the council off in a stampede to choke off future business development, we'd do well to step back and see if we have adequate safeguards to protect the look and feel of our hometown.
First, let's acknowledge that a million tourists a year and Forbes magazine can't all be wrong. Sonoma is beautiful and yet it has developed and kept pace with changing times since its founding. In recent years, while many California cities built cookie-cutter strip malls, Sonoma managed to retain the feel of small town America.
How did this happen? Through the diligence and efforts of many citizens backed by sound land use planning and laws. We benefit from a Design Review process that is thorough, and often difficult.
The results speak for themselves.
Recently, Ben Boyce (Index-Tribune Op Ed, Friday, May 6) has seized on the possibility of a Staples store locating in town to create an emotional firestorm. By using assorted fear-mongering tactics he has created the impression that Sonoma is a helpless waif innocently waiting to be carried off by the big bad wolf. His solution is to add more regulation through Community Impact Reports.
As a small business owner and one who has endured the grueling design review process, let me assure you the City and the public have all the means necessary to impose control over the appearance and feel of any project in town.
What we do not have is the power to discriminate against certain businesses any more than we have the right to discriminate against certain people. Empowering the City to discriminate against a business just because some members the community don't happen to like them is self-defeating nonsense.
Staples wants to locate in Sonoma because they see a market for their goods and services.
They are correct. Not only do we need their products, the jobs that they will create as well as the sales tax revenue they will bring to the City are all desperately needed. The vacant Ford dealership that they propose to occupy will be used in accordance with the same standards that have produced the Sonoma we all love today.
In the end, we have to ask ourselves what's important.
The process that made Sonoma what it is today is perfectly adequate to preserve it into the future.
When we calm down and evaluate what is really being proposed by these Community Impact Reports, we see people who really want the power to say who comes into town and who doesn't, simply based on their petty whims and prejudices.
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Joanne B. Sanders is a City Council member and mayor pro tem of Sonoma.