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Sonoma City Council to hear Nicora Place appeal

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Planning Commission approval for the 18-unit, single-family-home, planned development called Nicora Place, in the 800 block of West Spain Street, has been appealed to the City Council, which will hear the matter at its regularly-scheduled meeting on Monday, Nov. 4.

The 2-acre, planned development was approved on a 6-1 vote by the Planning Commission on Sept. 26. That decision was then appealed by Georgette Darcy, on behalf of the Sonoma Gardens Homeowner’s Association and the Sonoma Park Homeowner’s Association.

Darcy’s appeal cited issues of incompatibility with surrounding developments, including privacy and sunlight encroachment from the planned two-story buildings, along with a potential reduction in property values.

Developer Steve Ledson had already revised the proposed plans, reducing the number of residences from 19 units, increasing setbacks and offering partial-two-story designs on some units.

City staff are recommending the council deny the appeal and uphold the Planning Commission decision.

In other council business, the council will consider the loan proposal, received after two deadline extensions, for a compatible use of the historic Maysonave Cottage, currently in disrepair and in need of an estimated $700,000 in renovation before it could meet public-use standards and be incorporated into the city’s publicly-accessible historic buildings.

Even demolishing the building would cost an estimated $30,000 to $50,000, a step the council has been unwilling to take.

The lone proposal came from Benchmark/Hoover, which offered to lease the building for 20 years while restoring it to residential occupancy standards so it could be used as a vacation rental.

The company would pay the city a gradually-escalating monthly lease along with 1 percent of rental revenues, along with the transient occupancy tax it generates.

The city estimates the arrangement would net $97,000 in lease payments, plus the rental percentage and the TOT, with no cost burden to city coffers.

Staff are recommending preparation of a lease agreement for consideration by the council.

In one other item of note, the City Council will be asked to consider approving a resolution calling for a change in the way commercial real estate is reassessed after a sale. Following passage of Proposition 13 in 1978, increases in residential real estate taxes were limited, and were only allowed significant increases upon sale of properties.

But buyers and sellers of commercial real estate have managed to avoid reassessments by ownership arrangements in which no single party owns more than 50 percent of a property being purchased.

As a result, a large number of commercial real estate properties have not been reassessed since 1978, regardless of how many times they have changed hands.

Estimates of the lost revenue to the state of California run into multiples of billions of dollars a year.

The City Council will convene in the Community Meeting Room, 177 First St. W., at 6 p.m. The public is invited.