Staples issue on council agenda
Sonoma City Councilmember Ken Brown has placed an item on the Monday, April 4, meeting agenda to discuss a possible change in the city's development code to address the issue of what is commonly called "big box stores."
The item is a direct response to plans by Staples to build a 14,000-square-foot store in the former Holder Ford building at the intersection of Highway 12, West Napa Street and Riverside Drive. The site has been vacant since Holder closed the agency at the direction of Ford Motor Company last year.
In an announcement released Thursday, Brown said, "Proposals such as the one brought forward by Staples (are) of such magnitude, with the potential of significantly affecting the small town character of the City of Sonoma and its core business, (that they) may need to be subjected to more extensive analysis and study than the City's current development code requires."
Brown did not express an opinion about Staples in announcing the agenda item, but he did say he has received considerable constituent concern from people opposed to and upset about the imminent Staples opening.
According to a company spokesperson, Staples has signed a lease for the Holder Ford property and expects to open the store "later this year." Planning Director David Goodison has said that a retail store such as Staples is a conforming use and does not require planning commission approval.
The company has submitted remodeling plans and will have to submit to design review for any exterior façade changes and signs. The site has ample parking in the lot behind the building, and Goodison also said no traffic study will be required for the site.
Former mayor and three-term city council member Larry Barnett said there is no "big box" specification in the city's development code and he was skeptical one could easily be adopted, arguing that Friedman's Home Improvement, Rite-Aid and CVS Pharmacy are all nearly as big or bigger than the Holder building. Barnett said adopting a zoning change to restrict such buildings "would require a general plan amendment."
Barnett also questioned whether any company that was not of significant size could afford to lease the building. "I mean, what's going in there otherwise?" he asked. "What are we going to do, have a vacant building there."
A Staples spokesman said the store will offer full-service copying and printing services, along with computer set-up and repair and 7,000 products, including "great savings on core necessities for small businesses," including printer ink and toner, computers, accessories and countless other office products.
Staples stores are open seven days a week until 9 p.m.
Public reaction to the news has been swift and impassioned, generating a flood of letters to the editor, most in opposition to the store. Many of the letters express the fear that the office service stores currently in Sonoma, including Sonoma Valley Office Supply, Copy Store & More and Patt's Copy World, will be driven out of business.