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Two Healdsburg City Council members are not running for re-election, but candidates are emerging to fill their seats.

Both council members Jim Wood and Susan Jones say they will not seek re-election in November, providing an opening for hopefuls vying to succeed them.

Healdsburg Planning Commissioner Jeff Civian and winery owner Tim Meinken have announced their intent to run.

There's still plenty of time for other candidates to emerge, since the official filing period begins July 14 and closes Aug. 13.

The two candidates offer voters a distinct choice, expressing divergent views on growth and the direction of the city.

"I think the City Council has done a great job of trying to balance the needs of locals and visitors," said Civian, a retired civil engineer. "I think the current council is going in the right direction."

In contrast, Meinken, a former pension and benefits consultant who lost a bid for council in 2012, says a "new sense of leadership is needed on the council."

Meinken has been outspoken on the topic of overhauling pensions, accusing the City Council of taking "a bit of a head-in-the-sand approach" when it comes to the "massively underfunded" city employee pensions.

But he said the "number one issue is slowing down the growth."

"It may be time for the city to take a breather on its breakneck pace of growth," he said in his candidacy kick off statement.

The fledgling campaigns get underway as the city is focused on preserving small-town character in the face of what some have described as a tourist "tsunami" threatening to inundate the downtown. They cite parking scarcity, especially on weekends, and a plethora of wine-tasting rooms.

But defenders of the status quo say many towns would kill to have the same popularity with visitors, who boost bed and sales taxes, and help sustain the city's general fund and recreation programs.

They point out that Healdsburg regularly tops the list of desirable communities and destinations, including a recent mention in Smithsonian Magazine that named it No. 2 on the list of "20 Best Small Towns to Visit in 2014."

Proposals for new hotels have prompted debate over whether there should be a ballot measure restricting them to perhaps 40 or fewer rooms. But City Council members have spurned requests to put the issue in front of voters.

Both Civian and Meinken are against putting a hotel restriction measure on the ballot.

"One size fits all is not a good way to go," Civian said of restricting the number of rooms. He said that certain locations and sites can support different sized projects.

"It's an issue that needs a lot more discussion. There are a lot of concerns, including my own and (those) of people who live here," said Meinken, adding that a ballot initiative is premature.

But Meinken said more hotels add to the load on infrastructure in the form of congested traffic, overburdened parking, and usage of scarce resources, including police, fire and water.

Civian said growth isn't a pressing issue. "The Planning Commission and the City Council have done a good job," he said of creating smart growth in the city center and respecting the urban growth boundary.

Meinken acknowledges the city of approximately 11,500 residents has only grown at an average rate of 0.6 percent annually over the past 25 years. But he has concerns about the cumulative impact of projects in the pipeline.

Those include Saggio Hills, the luxury hotel and 70-home residential development, as well as plans to redevelop the south central Healdsburg area over the next 20 years with more than 300 dwellings and potentially more hotel, office and institutional uses.

Both men talk about the need to create more diverse and affordable housing for families and people just starting out. But they differ on how to do it.

Civian is in favor of a City Council-sponsored initiative anticipated to be on the November ballot that would loosen up Healdsburg's growth management ordinance.

The current voter-approved ordinance restricts the number of new residences to an average of 30 homes a year, excluding low-income housing.

But consultants said the ordinance deters large, multi-family housing projects because they are difficult to build in small increments.

As a result, an eight-member committee recommended the city allow developers to start with a "bank" of units that would allow more to be built initially.

Overall, 510 new dwelling units would be allowed over 15 years. That compares to 450 that would be allowed in that same period under the current voter-approved growth ordinance.

Meinken said he is against the change.

Real estate interests "want to use it as a way to put in substantial development," he said.

(You can reach Staff Writer Clark Mason at 521-5214 or clark.mason@pressdemocrat.com.)