Council takes no action on Staples moratorium
The Sonoma City Council took no action Monday to block Staples from moving into the former Holder Ford building on West Napa Street.
There will be no attempt by the City of Sonoma to impose a building code moratorium that could block Staples from opening a new 14,400-square-foot store in the old Holder Ford building on West Napa Street.
That was the unanimous decision of the Sonoma City Council Monday night following a lengthy public hearing at which 20 people spoke, nine of whom clearly opposed letting a Staples store into town.
Bonnie Krupp expressed the opinion that, “Maybe if we increase the tax revenue we’ll get some potholes fixed around here … It’s not very green to drive all the way to Napa for office supplies.”
Paul Martin, who said he was one of 59 people who signed a letter opposing the Staples Store, admitted “I like Staples. I shop at Staples online.” But, Martin hastened to add, “That’s not what this is about. It’s about whether there is a process in place for the public to weigh in – is it good, is it bad? It’s about, do we have a small town that we love and how do we preserve it?”
Ben Boyce suggested a middle way of addressing the issue by implementing a review process called the Community Impact Report, not unlike an EIR but focused on a much broader spectrum of community issues, including job creation, wage and benefit impacts, effects on housing and transportation, sales tax revenues and impacts on existing businesses.
Among the speakers was Santa Rosa attorney Les Perry, hired by Staples to represent the company at the meeting. Perry reminded the council that, according to state law, a moratorium on large stores requires “fact-based findings” showing an immediate threat to the “health, safety and welfare” of the public. Perry suggested that the city could “perhaps embark on a planning process that would serve your planning purposes. A moratorium would not.”
Also present at the public podium was the owner of the building in question, Chuck Holder, who informed the council that Staples has been looking at Sonoma as a store location “for five or six years.” He confided that “Everybody told me to get Trader Joe’s here. But they don’t want to come.”
He said Staples plans to invest more than $1 million on building upgrades, that the company has made a long-term commitment to be in Sonoma and that it will create more than 20 new jobs.
Addressing the often expressed fear that allowing Staples to open will usher in other “big-box” stores, Holder said, “It’s not like you’re going to have big-box stores here – there’s no space.”
At the council’s request, Laurie Decker, director of the community’s Economic Development Partnership, reiterated the results of a two-year-old survey showing that 61 percent of local businesses put “office supplies, services and equipment” at the top of a list of business supplies they wish they could buy locally. And based on another sales capture survey, 83 percent of retail office supplies and equipment are bought outside the community or online.
Responding to a complaint that Staples would present a chain store greeting at Sonoma’s northern gateway, Councilmember Tom Rouse pointed out that visitors entering Sonoma from the north are already greeted by a McDonald’s, followed by a Taco Bell, and then a Jack in the Box, a Safeway and a Whole Foods. Rouse also pointed out that if “we’re really quite excited to have a Trader Joe’s come to Sonoma, we can’t speak out of both sides of our mouth.”
With several council members swearing loyalty to existing office supply and copy stores, the Staples issue was laid to rest with no action taken.