The City of Sonoma Planning Commission will again take up the mixed-use development being proposed for 216-254 First St. E. and 273-299 Second St. E. – a plan that includes a hotel, restaurant and residential units.
The developer is the Sonoma-based Caymus Capital, and though the plan originally was presented under the project name “The Cloisters” it has been changed to the more easily identifiable First Street East project, or FSE.
The updated proposal, revised by the developers following January’s meeting of the Planning Commission – when the original proposal for a three-story 49-room hotel, 112-seat café, spa and a complex of apartments and homes faced scrutiny if not skepticism from the commission members and the public.
At that time, Planning Commission chair Bill Willers said, “I don’t believe that this project meets the spirit or intent of the General Plan. As it is now, it is too far from the development code and is requesting too many exclusions.”
Said Edmond Routhier, one of the FSE project’s principals, “We received a lot of healthy feedback from the community and Planning Commission during our last study session. We listened and have made the following changes in response.”
The proposal now involves redeveloping the 3.4-acre site with a mixed-use project comprised of 27 residential units and a 32-room hotel with a 48-seat restaurant.
The residential components remain within the city development plan standards, with 18 of the units designed as “flats” in three-story buildings with a maximum height of 36 feet, while nine detached elements would be two-stories with a peak height of 27 feet.
According to the developers, the flats could be offered as ownership units or as rentals, while the nine detached units would be owner-occupied. Although the applicants state that the design of the residential component is aimed at seniors, the residences would not be age-restricted.
The hotel, spa and other components have been adjusted as well. But Caymus is firm in its commitment to a hotel, stating in the meeting’s supporting documents, “The FSE project as proposed will generate over $4.3 million in direct revenues to the city and its schools over five years, 70 percent-plus of which would not be possible without the hospitality component.”
Caymus has a website outlining the plans for the development as it evolves at fseproject.com. There they explain that the new proposals reduce café size by 57 percent, create a second swimming pool as “more family friendly separation,” and allows for 100 percent onsite parking.
JJ Abodeely, also a principal in the FSE project, said, “This project will not only make Sonoma more beautiful and bring much-needed additional housing, but it will become a major economic driver which benefits our town directly through tax revenue.”
Nonetheless, the reduced scale of the project underscores Caymus’s stated flexibility in working through the development process. “There have been changes made as a result of our ongoing dialogue with neighbors, other residents, city council members and local business leaders,” Abodeely said.
The meeting of the Planning Commission will take place Thursday, March 24, at 6:30 p.m., in the Community Meeting Room, 177 First St. W. For more information visit the sonomacity.org under the government section, or go to sonomacity.org/Government/Councils-Commissions/Planning-Commission.aspx.