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Maysonnave Cottage gets new life

THE MAYSONNAVE COTTAGE will be leased to Sid Hoover and Benchmark Contractors who will rehab it as a vacation rental. Robbi Pengelly/Index-Tribune

THE MAYSONNAVE COTTAGE will be leased to Sid Hoover and Benchmark Contractors who will rehab it as a vacation rental. Robbi Pengelly/Index-Tribune

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The Maysonnave Cottage, a building once scheduled for demolition, will get new life thanks to the Sonoma City Council and a room full of supporters.

On a unanimous vote Monday, the council agreed to direct staff to prepare a document that will lease the building to Sid Hoover, local architect, and Benchmark Contractors, on condition that the historic cottage be restored and functional.

“The process works,” said Councilmember David Cook. “I did not want to tear down the cottage and I did not want it moved.”

The proposal from Benchmark/Hoover calls for a 20-year lease of the property with an allowance for the cottage to be used as a vacation rental. In exchange, the building will be restored to residential occupancy standards. At the conclusion of the lease, the city will take it back and can then decide to bring it up to public occupancy standards.

“This is a win-win situation both for the League and Sonoma,” said Robert Demler, vice president of the Sonoma League for Historic Preservation. The league leases the historic Maysonnave House and Gardens next door.

In addition to funding the renovation, which is estimated at $700,000, the lessees will pay the city rent of $97,000 over the period of the lease, transient occupancy tax, plus 1 percent of any proceeds from the vacation rental.

“We feel the proposal is consistent with the General Plan, honors the historic significance of the cottage and provides a source of income,” said former Mayor Joe Costello, who often speaks about projects that affect the North of the Mission Neighborhood Association.

The city’s obligation will be to upgrade the electrical service, provide sidewalk access to First Street East and demolish the barn that adjoins the cottage. In addition, the city would amend the Development Code to allow for vacation rental use. The cost of the improvements are estimated to be $70,000, but previous estimates of the cost of demolition were nearly that amount. The money would come from the Special Projects Fund.

The terms of the bequest from the late Henri Maysonnave was that the property be used as a memorial park or museum. According to the city attorney, the upgrade of the main house substantially fulfilled the requirement along with the portion of the property that is dedicated to petanque and bocce courts.

John Fannuchi, speaking on behalf of Bocce Sonoma, asked that an additional portion of the grounds be set aside for two bocce courts. He said his organization would install and maintain the courts, if that is possible.

Council was interested in the proposal, and Hoover agreed to discuss it further with the bocce league.