A 59-room luxury hotel proposed for Sonoma's historic Plaza area would pump an estimated $14 million a year into the town's economy and add to congestion at a critical intersection on the Plaza's south side.
Traffic is among the major considerations as town planning commissioners take their first official look Thursday at developer Darius Anderson's plans for the Chateau Sonoma Hotel & Spa on West Napa Street a half-block from the Plaza.
Three buildings, including the Sonoma Index-Tribune newspaper office, would be demolished to make way for the $27 million hotel that Anderson hopes to open in 2015 and to earn a five-star rating.
"We feel there's a void in the market for a full-service hotel on the Plaza, where you can walk everywhere," said Bill Hooper, president of Kenwood Investments, the development firm headed by Anderson.
Chateau Sonoma will charge an average of $465 a night, putting it on a par with other upscale hotels in the area, including the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn and The Lodge at Sonoma.
David Goodison, Sonoma's planning director, said the presence of other upscale hotels is not a factor in assessing Chateau Sonoma, which meets zoning and General Plan standards and needs only a use permit from the city.
But because of its scope and location, the project will require an environmental impact report to address traffic and how the hotel fits into the Plaza area, among other issues, Goodison said.
"This is a significant project for Sonoma," he said.
The seven-member Planning Commission will make no decision during a study session devoted entirely to Chateau Sonoma at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Community Meeting Room, 177 First St. W.
City planners and Kenwood Investments representatives will describe the hotel project, and public comments will be heard, Goodison said. Commissioners also will address the project and possibly offer suggestions to the developer.