The Sonoma City Council is holding a special meeting on Monday, Aug. 14 to consider action on the Sonoma Hotel Project and to review the city’s contract with the Sonoma Valley Visitors Bureau.
The council’s first item up for discussion will be whether to uphold the appeal of the Planning Commission’s certification of the environmental impact report on the Hotel Sonoma Project.
The Planning Commission in April approved the EIR in a 5-1 vote – but the decision was subsequently appealed by project watchdogs who say the EIR fails to sufficiently address project alternatives that would increase mitigations to its environmental impact.
On July 14, officials from Hotel Sonoma Project applicants Kenwood Investments – whose founder Darius Anderson is also managing partner in Sonoma Media Investments, which owns the Index-Tribune – submitted a letter to the city requesting to amend the EIR by adding such additional alternatives as consideration of a residential component and a consolidation of the traffic analysis of the EIR. At its July 19 meeting, the City Council voted 5-0 to direct city staff to establish directions for revisions to the EIR, including:
• an alternative in which about 50 percent of the proposed building area is residential and 50 percent is commercial
• an alternative in which a residential component of eight to 12 units is added to the project
• an alternative in which the project’s proposed restaurant is eliminated and the number of hotel rooms is reduced
The other big topic the Council will address Monday is whether to consider terminating the city’s contract with the Sonoma Valley Visitors Bureau and reallocate those funds.
For years the City of Sonoma had lent financial support to the nonprofit Visitors Bureau by way of state funding through the Sonoma Community Development Agency. But since the dissolution of state redevelopment agencies in 2012, the City has taken up that obligation. The current contract provides the Visitors Bureau with $100,000 per year from the city’s General Fund and rent of the Carnegie Building for $1 per year.
It was only last year when the Council approved a five-year contract with the Sonoma Valley Visitors Bureau to continue the $100,000 per year, an amount matched by annual Tourism Improvement District funds.
The agreement calls for the bureau to render various services to the city and provide annual activity reports to the city. It also allows the city to terminate the contract with 90 days notice. If council members agree a deeper look at the contract is warranted that discussion would then be agendized for a future meeting.
The meeting begins at 6 p.m. at the Community Meeting Room, 177 First St. W.