On Tuesday, Nov. 19, those who reside within the city limits of Sonoma will vote on Measure B, the hotel limitation measure. Stated reasons for supporting or opposing the measure are well known as mailers, door hangers and letters to the editor proliferate.
But the proverbial elephant is still in the room – the hotel project about which Measure B is ostensibly not about, but which arguably inspired the measure and against which most arguments, for or against, are being measured.
Developers of that project would say that they played by the rules, submitted draft proposals to the public, to the Sonoma Planning Department and to the Planning Commission, paid the appropriate fees and the costs of a traffic study commissioned by the city, all the while listening to rooms full of people both in private and public settings. The purpose, they said, was feedback, and feedback they got. On the basis of that feedback – from city officials and local residents – changes were made, the original name was dropped and the project was redesigned.
Those changes have not been aired in public because, once the measure was certified for the ballot, the only hotel project in Sonoma’s pipeline moved quietly to the corner to wait for the decision of the voting public.
Was the West Napa Street hotel proposal just a case of unfortunate timing? Or was it the catalyst for the action that became Measure B, the spur that nicked the psyche of the arbiters of community character, the stimulus for those who believe Sonoma is still part of rural America and should cautiously guard against any change that might upset the delicate balance of small town authenticity.
Measure B proponents say no, this is not about personalities or any particular hotel.
They’ve adamantly denied that the measure is about developer Darius Anderson and his West Napa Street project. But some Measure B proponents insist Anderson’s hotel is one of a number of proposals on the horizon, including one explored by developer The Kessler Collection at the Sonoma Truck and Auto property on Broadway, notwithstanding the fact that Kessler encountered too many Planning Department obstacles for his proposal and withdrew it. Interested parties continue to explore the property for any number of purposes, but no proposal is on file.
Another project alleged by a blogger who has relentlessly attacked Anderson with rumor and innuendo, involves an entirely unsubstantiated claim that Bank of America intends to close its Plaza branch and sell the property to a hotel developer with plans for a three-story hotel and underground parking lot.
But a query to Bank of America by the Index-Tribune prompted an emphatic denial from the company’s vice-president for corporate communications who stated, “We have no plans to close the banking center in Sonoma or to sell the property.”
All of which indicates that, if Measure B is passed by the electorate, the West Napa Street hotel project is the only one that will be affected. That said, even if it is being dismissed as not relevant to the discussion, like the elephant in the corner of the room, it can’t realistically be ignored.