The developer of a proposed luxury hotel in Sonoma will not unveil revised plans for the project until city voters have had a chance to weigh in on a ballot measure that could limit hotel expansion.
Darius Anderson's original plans for Chateau Sonoma Hotel & Spa sparked community debate and a successful petition drive by opponents of larger-scale hotels in the city.
Anderson, the founder and CEO of Kenwood Investments, stated that he would submit new plans for the project once he'd gathered feedback from the community. That's no longer the case.
Bill Hooper, Kenwood's president, said this week that Anderson is holding off as a "courtesy to the city" and to not "waste" staff time and that of planning commissioners while potential voters consider the proposed hotel limitation measure. The City Council on Monday is expected to set a special election for Nov. 19 to decide the issue.
Anderson's original plans called for a 59-room hotel on West Napa Street a half-block south of the historic plaza modeled on a French theme. The complex was to include two restaurants, a health club and spa, event center and 2,800 square feet of retail space.
Anderson withdrew that proposal for revision, and said the new design would include the same number of rooms but a smaller physical footprint, with one restaurant and a smaller event center. The French theme was to be replaced by a design that celebrated writer Jack London.
Hooper said Anderson is continuing to solicit feedback on the project, which Kenwood Investments estimates would pump more than $5 million into the local economy in the first five years after its completion through bed and property taxes.
Anderson is a principal of Sonoma Media Investments, which owns The Press Democrat.
Kenwood Investments also is financially backing Protect Sonoma, a group opposed to the hotel measure that would cap any new hotel or expansion of an existing one to 25 rooms unless the city's hotel occupancy rate over the previous calendar year exceeded 80 percent. The city has never had an annualized occupancy rate that high.
Financial disclosure forms filed with the city July 31 show that Protect Sonoma had expenses of $26,372. Of that, $25,481 was listed as non-monetary contributions.
The committee is sponsored by the Chateau Sonoma Hotel Group, LLC. Under state law, an entity or organization "sponsors" a committee under certain conditions, including contributing 80 percent or more of the committee's money.
Chateau Sonoma paid for political consulting, polling, supplies and other expenses, according to the financial statements.
The forms do not identify the payees, whom Hooper identified as Santa Rosa political consultant Rob Muelrath, Sacramento-based pollster J. Moore Methods, Burlingame law firm Miller & Olson and Nancy Simpson, the campaign coordinator for Protect Sonoma.
A different group, Preserving Sonoma, is backing the hotel measure, contending that it is necessary to protect the city's quality of life from what its members consider to be major hotel development.
The group, which gathered enough signatures to qualify the measure for a special election, accrued expenses of $42,119 and received contributions of $24,182 during the filing period of March through June, according to the financial reports.
Larry Barnett, a former mayor and bed-and breakfast owner and the main proponent of the ballot measure, and his wife, Norma, loaned the committee $20,000. The committee's outstanding balance of $19,143 is owed to the San Francisco law firm of Shute, Mihaly and Weinberger, which helped draft the proposed ordinance.