‘Big’ isn’t big, and ‘B’ is more fear than fact

By Jeff Montague

It’s become clear to me that Measure B proponents fail to recognize the flaws and unintended consequences their measure would have on Sonoma. Measure B takes aim at “big” hotels, and their determination that hotels with more than 25 rooms are “big” is a mystery to me. According to Measure B, the Inn at Sonoma, a quaint lodging establishment here in town, is classified as “big” at 27 rooms. If Measure B passes, future hotels of the same scale, or the expansion of existing ones, would be indefinitely prohibited.

MacArthur Place Inn is a 64-room establishment with a spa, restaurant and event space.

I live two blocks away, and I frequent their restaurant Saddles, yet I have never seen a traffic jam there. Further, limiting hotels in Sonoma-proper would facilitate the building of large hotels just outside the city limits, perhaps just south of Leveroni Road. Just imagine the traffic and parking situation if guests visiting our town had to drive to the Plaza, rather than having lodging within walking distance.

The Hotel Limitation Measure tries to fix a problem that doesn’t exist. Their early arguments that Sonoma risks becoming “overbuilt and over commercialized” have been largely discredited, and now proponents argue it’s about anticipating change.

Indeed, during last month’s Measure B debate, one of the panel members reported seeing more than 100 cars drive into the Whole Foods parking lot, while during that time only one car drove into the Best Western Inn of Sonoma. When the supporters of Measure B were asked why this “retail traffic problem” wasn’t addressed in their measure, they replied, “Our City Council and Planning Commission have provisions to control this.” When asked why the Measure B supporters could trust the local government to control retail growth, yet couldn’t be trusted to manage hotel growth, they failed to provide a satisfactory answer. This made me seriously question the need for Measure B.

The supporters of Measure B have placed several videos on YouTube explaining their position. I would encourage all Sonoma residents to watch these videos and see if any concise, clear and compelling arguments for Measure B can be found.

Supporters of Measure B may sound well-intentioned, but I feel their arguments are rooted in fear, not fact.

Over the past decade, no new “large” hotels (their definition being 25 rooms or more) have been approved in our city. While hotel proposals considered “large” have been proposed, none have received the approval of our City Council or Planning Commission, due to the deliberate, careful and lengthy planning process we already have in place.

I applaud the good work of our dedicated officials who have protected our small-town charm and historic buildings with integrity and dedication, their willingness to hear all voices before passing any measure, and I strongly oppose any change in the city’s plan that would detrimentally limit the relevancy of our bodies of government that have served the citizens so well.

I urge all Sonoma citizens to review this measure, consider the consequences, and vote “no” on Measure B.

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  Jeff Montague is the owner of Wine Country Cyclery and a Sonoma resident.