Healdsburg is such a desirable place to visit that it could more than double its number of existing hotel rooms to meet market demand, according to a new study commissioned by the city.
As many as 450 new hotel rooms could be built to satisfy pent-up demand, adding to the existing 365 rooms in nine hotels, according to PKF Consulting, which was commissioned by the City Council to gauge the Healdsburg lodging situation.
But just because the rooms would be filled relatively quickly by visitors flocking to the favored Wine Country destination doesn't mean they will get built.
"It's not the first step toward this huge explosion of 400 rooms in Healdsburg," said Mayor Jim Wood. "It's informational about what is the potential and locations that might be able to handle hotels in this community."
"It's a piece of the puzzle that goes into discussions down the road," said City Councilman Tom Chambers, who like other council members took pains to say he is not advocating all the rooms be built.
But a founder of a citizens' group that favors restricting the size of new hotels, potentially with a future ballot measure, criticized the $24,500 study for what it left out.
Warren Watkins, head of Healdsburg Citizens for Sustainable Solutions, said the study did not match up with recent City Council strategic planning sessions in which residents asked for "economic diversity," instead of more promotion of hotels and tourism.
Were consultants told "that most every resident, voter and local in the Healdsburg area wants to maintain our small town as a first priority?" Watkins said.
Mayor Wood said the city's general plan and its goal of preserving small town character will guide what actually ends up getting approved and built.
He noted that a controversial 75-room, five-story hotel that was proposed last year near the Healdsburg Plaza, then dropped, "never made it past the planning director" as details about its size leaked out.