Zoning changes designed to make it easier for businesses to locate in Santa Rosa were lauded by the City Council majority Tuesday as wise economic development policy but lambasted by others as handouts to developers and private property owners.
The council unanimously approved giving wineries and breweries more flexibility to operate tasting rooms and production facilities in the city, in some cases without any land-use permits.
But proposals to rezone the 12.5-acre Yolanda Avenue property once proposed for a Lowe's Home Improvement store and another aimed at allowing large grocery stores in the city's southeast without use permits got mired in the council's deep political divide.
The four-member majority supported the changes as ways to remove what it deemed unnecessary obstacles to businesses and boost jobs and sales taxes.
"We are developing a site that will attract a user that will be a money generator for the city," Councilman Jake Ours said of the Yolanda Avenue property.
But Councilman Gary Wysocky said didn't think the city should have spent $70,000, most of it for an environmental review, to make development easier on a property when the city is kicking the nonprofit food bank FISH. out of its long-time home for lack of funds.
"Here we are just writing a check to a private property owner," Wysocky said.
A key obstacle in developing the site has been a 2.7-acre parcel zoned for medium density housing, which to change would require an amendment to the city general plan. To remove the impediment, the city proposed finding other sites in the city that could accommodate those 35 additional housing units.
The council agreed to increase the housing density on a 18.2-acre site on Montecito Avenue in Rincon Valley by 35 units, and on a 4.6-acre undeveloped site at 1865 Meda Avenue near the fairgrounds by 13 units.
But it rejected adding 48 additional units to a 7.7-acre site on Petaluma Hill Road after neighbors complained about the traffic, noise and crime they worried would result from a 100-unit complex beside their single-family homes.