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Protect or Preserve?

Sonoma's Measure B is the city's most costly; would limit hotels to 25 rooms each

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Barnett, who was instrumental in implementing Sonoma's Urban Growth Boundary in 2000, says the city can do fine with smaller hotels and shouldn't sacrifice its character for the needs of out-of-towners. Using phrases like "fabric of a community" and "tempo of life," Barnett explains that the proposed 59-room hotel is a sign of impending changes to come if Measure B fails. "Sonoma cherishes and guards its particular nature and qualities quite seriously," he says. "It's really easy to end up turning into Yountville."

Campaign financing against Measure B comes largely ($37,000) from Anderson's Chateau Sonoma Hotel Group, LLC. But Simpson says she isn't interested in helping developers take over her town. "We're not pro-development," she says. "I care about our small-town character." She cites the lack of real estate available for development in the city and the Urban Growth Boundary as limits that are already in place for large hotels, and says Measure B risks pigeonholing the city into approving less desirable development. "We can't just assume hotels are the only thing that threatens our small town character and credibility."

As it happens, both Simpson and Barnett share the same ideology on this topic. "'Reinforce small-town character of Sonoma' is in the general plan," says Barnett. "Our initiative actually puts a number to that."

Simpson, who agrees with the sentiment, counters that assigning hard numbers to "character" is not the right approach. "This is a balancing act," she says.

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