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Forum on hotel limitation measure draws large crowd

Almost 200 people crowded into Burlingame Hall in Sonoma Thursday evening to hear a civil, spirited discussion of the ramifications of the Hotel Limitation Initiative (Measure B), from the point of view of both supporters and opponents.

If approved, the measure would prohibit the construction of new hotels with more than 25 rooms or expansion of existing ones past 25 rooms, until occupancy levels of 80 percent are reached for the previous calendar year. A special election to decide the issue will be held Nov. 19.

Speaking in favor of the measure were Larry Barnett, a former City Council member, mayor and one-time B&B proprietor, and Ed Clay, owner of Carneros Studios, a custom furniture maker. Barnett is also chair of the Preserving Sonoma Committee, which sponsored the measure. Speaking against the measure were Steve Page, president of Sonoma Raceway and Bill Blum, general manager of MacArthur Place Hotel & Spa. Page and Blum represented the Protect Sonoma committee, which is opposed to Measure B.

Dick Fogg, chairman of the Sonoma County Planning Commission, served as moderator, reading pre-established questions that each side answered and neither side had previously seen. Following an hour of lively back and forth debate on six wide-ranging questions, another half-hour was devoted to questions submitted by members of the audience.

The first round of questions covered the measure’s impact on the urban growth boundary, pedestrian and vehicular traffic, how numbers were selected to limit rooms and occupancy, implications for future city finances, why only hotels were targeted and other types of commercial developments were not, and what defines small town character.

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