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Sonoma City Council candidates express similar ideas

The four candidates running for Sonoma City Council expressed similar ideas Monday for how the city should be run.

The candidates, who were taking part in a forum at the city's community room, identified the city's finances and water needs as top priorities.

All four also dismissed a question from an audience member about the feasibility of charging for parking around the city's plaza as a bad idea.

“It would be ridiculous to even consider it,” said David Cook, who owns a vineyard management company.

Cook is running against Madolyn Agrimonti, Cameron Stuckey and Laurie Gallian, who is seeking a second term. There are two open slots on the council, including one created when Mayor Joanne Sanders decided not to run again.

The election is Nov. 6.

The only sharp differences expressed at Tuesday's event, which was sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Sonoma County, were over a controversial formula store ordinance that a divided City Council passed in June.

Sonoma is one of the few cities in the nation to enact regulations on chain establishments, including a ban on restaurant chains with more than 250 outlets from opening on the plaza.

Under the ordinance, any formula business seeking to open at the plaza or in the historical district needs a use permit. A formula business is defined as one with 10 or more outlets, excluding hotels, offices, financial institutions and service businesses.

In the first test of the ordinance, the city's Planning Commission narrowly denied a use permit for a Peet's Coffee & Tea is seeking to open on Broadway.

Gallian, who was one of three council members to support the ordinance, defended it Monday, saying “Sonoma is unique” and “not about being the same.”

But the other three candidates expressed concern that the ordinance is confusing and could dampen economic growth.

“I would love to preserve, in some way, the plaza, but I think we need to revisit this,” said Agrimonti, a former mayor of Daly City.

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