Healdsburg group challenges growth issues in flyer

A citizens' group that's battled hotel development in Healdsburg in the name of protecting small town charm is mailing out flyers this week to all registered voters in the city to "create public awareness" on growth issues and enlist support for its goals.

The brochure from Healdsburg Citizens for Sustainable Solutions warns "our future is at stake" and details development that is already approved, or under consideration.

The flyer is scheduled to be mailed out Wednesday to approximately 3,400 households with 6,000 voters in a move that could help gauge support for a potential ballot measure, such as a limit on the number of rooms for new hotels.

The mailer includes a postcard asking residents to complete an eight-question survey asking what the maximum number of rooms a new hotel should be allowed — ranging from 20 to 40 to 60 to unlimited — as well as questions on whether more parking is needed in Healdsburg, and whether there should be a one-year moratorium on new construction because of water shortages.

It also mentions "tipping point tourism," a reference to the group's concern that Healdsburg is being flooded with visitors at the expense of local residents.

The intent is "to create some public awareness on issues important to Healdsburg and try to get more feedback from voters, to see if we're on the right track," said Jim Winston, a retired Healdsburg area resident who spearheaded the flyer along with former math teacher Warren Watkins.

"The issues have blossomed beyond the hotel issue, because of the prospective development and small-town character at risk here," Watkins said Monday.

Even before the flyer is mailed out there was skepticism expressed Monday about its content and some of the claims the group makes about its successes, such as "Big Box Kessler came to town; we sent them packing!"

"Kessler didn't get run out of town from them," said City Councilman Gary Plass. "Kessler realized their project was too big for the site," he said of the 75-room, five-story hotel the company proposed last year south of the Healdsburg Plaza before withdrawing the application.

There was also a differing opinion about another claim in the flyer that Healdsburg Citizens "negotiated H3 hotel down to under 40 rooms!"

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