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Sonoma hires new planning director

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Public hearing on Hotel Sonoma Project on Oct. 18

The City of Sonoma has a resource page on the Hotel Sonoma Project, where the revised draft EIR and other documents are available, at sonomacity.org/hotel-project-sonoma.

Comments on the document can be submitted via email to associate planner Wendy Atkins (wendya@sonomacity.org), Jim Reese with Management Partners (jreese@managementpartners) and Steve Noack with Placeworks (snoack@placeworks.com).

The City of Sonoma announced Thursday the hiring as its new permanent Planning and Community Services Director. David Storer will start on Tuesday, Oct. 9.

Storer replaces Planning Director David Goodison who retired in August after 30 years. The city’s part-time interim director, James Moore, resigned after just two weeks on the job, and the position has been vacant since Aug. 20.

Capriola said she was thrilled to have found a strong replacement and described the past year as “difficult.”

“Between the October fires, our loss of staff, the number of development appeals we are processing, it has been challenging to move projects forward,” she said. “We need to make sure all projects are fully vetted. We are all doing our best.”

Some of the larger projects currently at various stages in the review process include the Hotel Sonoma Project, the First Street East development, the Sonoma Cheese Factory renovation and the Altamira housing project on Broadway.

The so-called Hotel Sonoma Project – a development proposed by Kenwood Investments, whose founder is Darius Anderson, managing partners in Sonoma Media Investments, which owns the Index-Tribune – has been back and forth before the Planning Commission, presenting plans for its 1.63 acre, 62-room hotel and 80-seat restaurant since 2012.

Previously Goodison served as the staff person on point for the project and as the City’s official interface with the Hotel Sonoma Project development team, led by Kenwood Investments President Bill Hooper. After Goodison’s retirement, a representative from the consulting firm of Management Partners was assigned to that role.

Even with Storer’s hiring, Capriola said that the extra help from Management Partners, who have been assigned to the City’s small planning team, will be needed for another few months.

“We will still need their help to dig out from under some of the projects that have been stalled as a result of our being short-handed,” said Capriola.

Not only will Storer need time to get up to speed, but Capriola confirmed that developers may also face a different cast of decision makers on the City’s Planning Commission after the upcoming City Council elections.

In a new commission-appointment system, enacted by the City Council a year ago, planning commissioners are now chosen by the sitting council members. As a result, any new council members elected on Nov. 4 will personally choose to appoint one Planning Commission member.

According to Capriola, however, any replacements to the Planning Commission would not take place until Feb. 1, following the public posting of commission vacancies.

As for next steps for the Hotel Sonoma Project, there is an upcoming Planning Commission meeting to consider the final environmental impact report on the hotel and the project’s use permit at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 18, in the City Council chambers at 177 First St. W.

The meeting will be Storer’s first in his new role.

“David is a seasoned professional with expertise as planner and manager,” said Capriola in the announcement of Storer’s hiring. “His broad experience will be helpful as he leads our planning operation and help us with both current development projects and our long-range planning efforts.”

Storer has more than 30 years of experience in planning and community development in both the public and private sectors, including as director of planning, inspections and permitting for Folsom and assistant city manager in Elk Grove. He has also held planning jobs in Morgan Hill and Santa Cruz. He holds a master’s degree in city and regional planning from Brigham Young University.

Public hearing on Hotel Sonoma Project on Oct. 18

The City of Sonoma has a resource page on the Hotel Sonoma Project, where the revised draft EIR and other documents are available, at sonomacity.org/hotel-project-sonoma.

Comments on the document can be submitted via email to associate planner Wendy Atkins (wendya@sonomacity.org), Jim Reese with Management Partners (jreese@managementpartners) and Steve Noack with Placeworks (snoack@placeworks.com).

According to the job posting, the annual salary range for this position is $120,892 to $146,945 plus an “excellent” benefits package including CalPERS retirement.

Email Lorna at lorna.sheridan@sonomanews.com.