Plans have surfaced for a second new hotel in downtown Healdsburg as debate grows over how much more visitor lodging should be built in the favored Wine Country destination.
Just a week after an application was withdrawn for a controversial five-story, 75-room hotel a half block south of Healdsburg Plaza, another group of developers is proposing a smaller hotel on a parking lot across the street.
Circe Sher, a managing partner in the Hotel Healdsburg and H2 Hotel, said her company wants to build another hotel and expects to formally submit plans to the city in about a month.
She initially said the four-story hotel would have around 40 rooms, but later said the number is being recalculated because the lot is smaller than first believed.
The proposal comes as City Council members are being urged by some residents to clamp down on hotel construction downtown.
If the council doesn't act, some residents are considering a ballot measure to limit the size of hotels, similar to an initiative before voters Tuesday in the City of Sonoma.
"I think the city should either ban hotels, or severely limit the number of rooms and hotels in the downtown business district," said Bruce Abramson, a mortgage broker and former Healdsburg park and recreation commissioner worried about the loss of small-town character.
Traffic backups on Healdsburg Avenue and lack of downtown parking, he said "get worse every year due to this tourist tsunami we are having."
City Council members acknowledge some of the city's parking policies need to be re-examined to ensure new development provides enough parking.
And city officials also have mentioned possibly building a municipal parking garage at some point using fees levied on new projects.
City Manager Marjie Pettus said she is in the process of hiring a consultant to perform a market analysis of lodging.
"We want to have objective data on demand, market capacity, room rates and type of lodging," she said.
In separate interviews this week, council members were divided on the idea of placing restrictions on hotel size.
"I'm open to the conversation," said Mayor Susan Jones. "It's a balancing act and we have to be careful in that we don't lose our small-town charm."
"I'm not in favor of an initiative that would limit what you can build downtown," said Councilman Tom Chambers. "It has unintended consequences. With regulations, there's always something else that pops out."
Councilman Gary Plass said the city planning process works.
"Some people say there are too many hotels, the streets are crowded. Show me the facts. Because a lot of people are downtown on a Friday night it's overcrowded?"
Plass argued that city officials do a good job planning projects one at a time, and any moratorium or tight restriction on hotel size "would put a stop to entrepreneurs to express their thoughts and dreams."
Councilman Shaun McCaffrey struck a similar chord:
"There's a reason why we have elected government — to make decisions for people in the city. Putting a hotel limitation in place would just kind of tie the hands of the elected officials."
"You never know what's going to come in the future. You have to put some trust in the people you elected," McCaffrey said.