Plans on hold for Healdsburg luxury hotel

Developers of a proposed five-story, luxury hotel in downtown Healdsburg have withdrawn their application after concerns were raised about the height and size of the project.

"There was a lot more community concern than originally anticipated," said a representative for The Kessler Collection.

"We realized after the feedback from city staff we needed to go back to the drawing board," Owen Smith, director of real estate development for the hotel group, said Tuesday.

City Council members said they hope to see Kessler return with a new proposal. "We look forward to seeing what you may submit again," Mayor Susan Jones told Smith at Monday's council meeting.

The 75-room hotel with an art galley and cafe on the ground floor was intended to make a grand impression as "one of the most important destinations of downtown Healdsburg," according to a prospectus submitted to the city.

The plan for the hotel, to be located a half-block south of the town plaza on the east side of Healdsburg Avenue, included a roof-top restaurant and swimming pool, health spa, "state-of-the-art" meeting rooms and fitness center.

Developers touted the several hundred jobs — including construction and hotel employment that would be generated, along with city bed and sales tax revenues of more than $1.2 million in the first year alone.

But even before plans were submitted for a design review on Sept. 26, word of the height and size prompted a debate on whether it represented a tipping point that would further erode Healdsburg's small town charm. At 59 feet high, the hotel would have been the tallest building in the city and also required a zoning variance from City Hall to exceed Healdsburg's 50-foot height limitation.

Critics, concerned about the loss of small-town character, began talking about a possible ballot initiative to limit the size of new hotels, similar to the question before voters on Nov. 19 in the city of Sonoma.

Smith said "feedback" from city staff as well as commentary from the community made Kessler reconsider. "All of our projects in the past have always gotten large community support, so this was a big red flag for us," he said.

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