With a choice of adopting the Hotel Limitation Measure or calling for a public vote, the Sonoma City Council on Monday unanimously set November 19 for a special election to decide the issue.
The measure would limit hotels to 25 rooms or less unless the city reached an annual occupancy rate of 80 percent, The town’s average annual occupancy rate is 62 percent.
The council, with votes from Mayor Ken Brown and Councilmembers Tom Rouse and David Cook, also voted to officially oppose the measure by including an argument against it in the voter pamphlet.
Councilmember Steve Barbose opposed the move for the council to take a formal stand on the issue. “People already think they can’t trust the council to deal with this issue,” he said. The ballot argument will “encourage people’s fears.”
Mayor Brown took exception to Barbose’s comments, saying the council was entitled to make its majority opinion known. “The constituents I hear from have a voice as well, and they look to me to provide that voice,” he said.
“I don’t see any reason to think my support for putting an argument on the ballot degrades confidence in the City Council,” Brown said.
Councilmember Laurie Gallian also opposed the council move to offer a ballot argument. “This will be decided by the people,” she said.
Brown and Rouse are responsible for producing the statement, which is due by September 2. They may enlist help from any sources in crafting the argument, which must ultimately be signed by five people.
The ballot measure qualified for the special election after supporters gathered the requisite number of signatures.
The measure has already affected local planning. The application for the 59-room “Sonoma Hotel” project on West Napa Street has been “suspended by request of the applicant,” said City Planning Dierector David Goodison. Informal discussions with a group exploring a hotel project at Broadway and MacArthur are also on hold, he said.