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Healdsburg’s downtown southern gateway, long dominated by a big lumber-yard and mill, is getting closer to being redeveloped as the site for a hotel, housing and commercial space, a reflection of the wholesale transformation of this one-time farm town turned tourist hot spot.

Plans for a 58-room hotel, along with 182 apartments and townhomes, have been submitted to the city by Vancouver, British Columbia-based Replay Resorts, which last year bought the Nu Forest wood mill site and adjoining property totaling 10 acres.

Developers say the project is consistent with city-centered growth guidelines and a vision derived from an extensive public process for the central Healdsburg area, embracing a transit-oriented approach with an affordable housing component.

It also would include 1 acre of green space along Healdsburg Avenue, comparable in size to the venerable Healdsburg Plaza a few blocks away.

“They are bringing in a world-class architect and it’s going to look really nice,” Mayor Shaun McCaffery said Friday. “It’s an old industrial site. To go to a mixed-use facility is a pretty healthy transition.”

But the proposal comes amid an ongoing debate over allowing construction of more hotels and continuing tension in Healdsburg over the impact of tourism. That friction was evident in grumbling over winemaker Pete Seghesio’s 2015 conversion of the town’s former post office, now the site of the exclusive Single Thread Farms restaurant and its luxurious hotel suites.

In the standoff over Healdsburg’s identity, the central question remains: How to strike a balance between the economic boost such developments bring and the needs of local residents?

Some community activists recently began calling for a moratorium on approval of new hotels and tasting rooms until the city can conduct a study on the benefits and costs associated with tourism.

There does not appear to be support on the City Council for a moratorium, but a study to achieve what some are calling “sustainable tourism” could be a possibility.

“It’s our economic engine,” McCaffery said of the industry that has transformed Healdsburg from a one-time hub for prune and hops growers into a trendy destination for foodies and wine enthusiasts.

“Do you want to continue with it, or throttle it back? It’s a larger discussion that has to take place,” McCaffery said.

City Councilwoman Brigette Mansell said the city needs to get a better understanding of how tourism “affects livability.”

“People are moving out because they don’t like sharing their downtown with people who don’t live here,” she said. “They don’t feel the town has a sense of community downtown.”

Mansell said Healdsburg’s success as a visitor destination has come at a cost, driving up real estate prices, making it hard for families to afford to live there, hurting school enrollments, and increasing traffic and parking problems.

Warren Watkins, head of Healdsburg Citizens for Sustainable Solutions, expressed concern that Replay’s project comes at the same time as the long-stalled Saggio Hills luxury hotel and residential development at the north end of town appears closer to securing financing and commencing construction.

“Two resorts coming online at the same time is disturbing to me,” he said.

In 2009, Watkins brought a lawsuit against Saggio Hills, composed of a 130-room hotel and 70 homes, in an unsuccessful effort to reduce its size.

But proponents of Replay Resorts’ hotel and housing project, what is dubbed the “Mill District,” say it will beautify and enhance the primary entry to the city, reduce blight and create economic vitality.

It’s within walking distance of the train station where passenger service is expected to one day resume with SMART, as well as a pedestrian and bike path that parallels the tracks.

Replay plans not only to redevelop the Nu Forest site, but tear down the boarded-up, two-story Garden Inn to the south, along Healdsburg Avenue.

A grove of 15 mature redwood trees would be preserved. Also planned are a swimming pool, community garden, and “natural adventure” play area for kids to scramble over boulders and tree trunks.

The plan will be subject to environmental review before it moves on to public hearings with the Planning Commission and City Council for consideration. No dates have been set.

Replay Vice President David Hill said it’s possible work could begin next year, installing infrastructure, followed by the hotel and spa, along with some residential units.

But Healdsburg’s strict voter-approved growth cap for market-rate units — no more than 30 new homes on average per year — means the residential portion would be built in phases, perhaps over eight years.

Developers say that will allow for more “organic growth,” similar to the way other parts of Healdsburg grew.

The Mill District would comprise 140 market-rate attached multi-family units and an additional 27 dwellings restricted to low- and moderate-income families.

Developers also would include an extra 15 below-market-rate dwellings for “middle income” families — an often-overlooked segment of people who can’t afford to buy but make too much to qualify for traditional housing assistance programs.

Those units would be for households that make 120 to 180 percent of the area’s median income.

There would be a combination of live-work units, studios, one- to four-bedroom flats and townhomes, all ranging in size from 500 to 2,700 square feet.

How many would be owner-occupied versus rentals has not been determined, according to Hill.

The Mill District plan also calls for 14,500 square feet of commercial space. Stores, restaurants, cafes and incubator spaces for software and tech companies could be part of the mix.

The developers plan to a hold a series of open houses this month and next for the public to get familiar with the project and ask questions, Hill said.

Founded in 2007, Replay Resorts owns hotel properties in the Bahamas, Antigua, Utah and two in Hawaii, including Turtle Bay Resort on Oahu.

You can reach Staff Writer Clark Mason at 707-521-5214 or clark.mason@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter@clarkmas

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