By Gary Edwards
As chairman of the Hillside Preservation Alliance in 1999, I was pleased to work with fellow citizens in Sonoma to keep the Rosewood Hotel project off public land overlooking downtown Sonoma. Some of those folks are now comparing Measure B with Rosewood’s Measure A, and they’re taking credit for the hard work that was done by a committed few of us to protect Sonoma’s hillside – the Overlook Trail.
I believe every Sonoma voter deciding how to vote on Measure B should go to the library and check out a copy of the Constitution of the United States of America to learn why these two initiatives are so very different. Measure A was about public land. Measure B is about the freedom of private landowners to go through the established regulatory process and talk to the community, and to appropriately work through the existing process to develop their private property.
They are totally different cases, and the voters deserve to understand the reason these initiatives are not remotely similar.
I attended a city council meeting recently where the “Yes on B” supporters recommended, as one said, “The city should go after people and tax them for unlicensed rooms they are renting to garner TOT revenue.”
Their claim revealed they believe potential revenue would make up for lost hotel taxes if Measure B passes and bans all new hotels of 25 rooms or more – so-called “big” hotels.
Factually, out of the $2.5 million collected from the hotel tax, only 20 percent comes from hotels smaller than 25 rooms – not enough money to ensure the basic city services we deserve. Voting “yes” on B will drain the city’s accounts in spite of what they tell you.
At that same city council meeting, proponents also said that “the fix was in” and implied that the council and planning commissioners “were on the take.” Larry Barnett tried to take this back, but as one of your planning commissioners, I don’t believe you can take a statement like this back. I believe in my community and I love Sonoma. I also believe in the process we have to review all development projects – and I give my time and my personal integrity to ensure this process can be trusted.
As an individual who has volunteered not only on the planning commission, but in our community at large with Rotary, the Boys & Girls Club, the Community Garden, the Sonoma Community Center and others, I urge voters who really care about our quality of life and the character of Sonoma to vote “no” on Measure B and let the dedicated people who serve this community continue the good work that we do.
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Gary Edwards is a Sonoma resident and a member of the Sonoma Planning Commission.