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Sonoma voters reject hotel ban

DARIUS ANDERSON applauds the results Tuesday evening after it became apparent Measure B failed. Robbi Pengelly/Index-Tribune

DARIUS ANDERSON applauds the results Tuesday evening after it became apparent Measure B failed. Robbi Pengelly/Index-Tribune

By David Bolling and Bill Hoban/Index-Tribune

A cheer erupted at the “No on Measure B” party at about 10:40 p.m. as long-awaited results were posted Tuesday. Measure B, the Hotel Limitation Initiative, was ultimately defeated by 124 votes, although it took until Thursday afternoon before 308 absentee and provisional votes could be counted and the final figures were posted.

The final tally from the Sonoma County Registrar of Voters was 2,032 “No” votes to 1,908 “Yes”.

The “No on B” people were anxiously awaiting the results, while the “Yes on B” party broke up before 10 p.m. when it was announced that the votes leaving Sonoma for the registrar’s office in Santa Rosa had been delayed.

Larry Barnett, the force behind the initiative, left the party in Murphy’s Snug room at about 9:50 p.m., and most of the dozen or so supporters who were still there headed for the door shortly thereafter.

Barnett, who has been through more than a few elections, was looking at the early results of the mail-in ballots that gave the “No” side a 115-vote lead. Barnett said he anticipated about 4,000 votes would be cast and said that the “yes” side would have to pick up about six-out-of-10 remaining votes to have a chance.

Only 794 voters – 20 percent of the total – went to the polls on Tuesday, while 3,151 mail-in ballots were cast for a total of 3,945 votes – or 61.1 percent of the registered voters in the city of Sonoma.

At Della Santina Enoteca, about 50 supporters of “No on B” waited until the preliminary results were posted at about 10:40 p.m..

Darius Anderson, who has proposed building a 59-room hotel in the 100 block of West Napa Street, spoke to his supporters after the vote flashed on the TV screen.

“The one thing that needs to come out of this vote today,” he said, amid cheers from supporters opposed to the Hotel Limitation Measure, “is a united Sonoma.”

Anderson called for a collaborative effort, uniting supporters and opponents of Measure B, to explore and review a new version of his West Napa Street hotel project that would meet the approval of the city’s regulatory commissions and the public at large.

Hotel architect Michael Ross indicated that a redesign of the original project would be presented to the public and the planning commission that would reflect public concerns about the scope and the scale of the original proposal.

The Hotel Limitation Measure proposed to limit all new hotel projects, as well as existing hotels, to a maximum of 25 rooms until the annual occupancy rate of all rental rooms in Sonoma reached 80 percent.

Supporters of the measure warned of an impending influx of “large” hotel projects, including proposals for hostelries at the former Sonoma Truck and Auto site on Broadway, and the Anderson project, proposed for the parking lot and building of the Sonoma Index-Tribune on West Napa Street. Anderson is a principal in Sonoma Media Investments, the owner of the Index-Tribune.

Opponents of Measure B countered that Sonoma has few building sites for future hotels, that 59-room projects did not constitute “large” hotels, and that the proposed project on West Napa Street would contribute significantly to the city’s tax revenues, making up for the loss of former redevelopment funds.

Wednesday morning Barnett said, “I’m disappointed, of course. But the voters have spoken and that was the whole point. Our campaign changed the conversation in Sonoma about growth? and tourism, and though Measure B did not win, we’re proud of having run an honest campaign that respected the intelligence and wisdom of the voters in Sonoma.”

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