Recent statistics in the press have shown slow residential population growth in Sonoma County, at least relative to the booming pre-recession years. This slowdown in the numbers of new permanent local residents is countywide, including the two “plaza towns” of Sonoma and Healdsburg. We often hear that Sonoma County doesn’t have growth or excess tourism issues anymore. Or do we?
The answer is yes. We contend that tourist visitors, often well-heeled, need to be counted in population statistics along with permanent arrivals. This ongoing substantial environmental impact from thousands of yearly visitors should be a major concern of all of us, and not ignored in growth statistics.
So, now we have applications pending for large, out-of scale and out-of-character hotels in both downtowns. In Healdsburg, the first of three proposals is for 70 rooms and five stories. What next?
Consider the impacts to Healdsburg:
Our downtown core will lose its ambiance to multi-story hotels, circling cars and weekly commercial events.
Downtown stores are already dominated by tasting rooms, realtors and tourist gift shops. Shopping for local needs? Forget it.
Middle class workers and families, often hotel employees, can seldom afford housing in town and must commute to work on costly freeways.
So, good luck Sonoma with limiting hotel size. Healdsburg needs to follow your good example.
Warren and Janis Watkins