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Report on Sonoma hotel measure released

A consultant's report released Friday appears to provide ammunition to opponents of a proposed hotel limitation measure in Sonoma.

The report called it "highly unlikely" that the city would ever achieve an occupancy rate high enough to overcome a cap of 25 rooms as prescribed in the measure.

There is a limited pool of investors for smaller lodging in Sonoma because such development lacks "operating efficiencies and marketing advantages of larger properties," the report stated.

Larger hotels bring in more bed taxes, which in turn help fund city services, because these facilities have historically had higher occupancy rates, the report stated.

The report was prepared by Keyser Marston Associates, Inc.

The City Council on July 15 narrowly authorized the $17,500 impact study after supporters of the ballot measure gathered enough signatures to qualify the initiative for a special election. By law, Keyser Marston had 30 days to prepare the study.

The measure 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.

Over the past decade, Sonoma's lodging properties have achieved an average annual occupancy rate of 62 percent, with a peak in 2006 of 66 percent, the consultant concluded.

Supporters of the measure contend that it is necessary to protect the city's quality of life from what its members consider to be major hotel development. But opponents decry the measure as a de-facto ban on larger hotels and fear it will dampen economic growth.

Opponents also contend the measure is aimed at a single project: developer Darius Anderson's plans for a 59-room luxury hotel on West Napa Street, about a block away from the city's plaza. Anderson is a principal of Sonoma Media Investments, which owns The Press Democrat.


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