Sonoma's city manager wants the authority to hire a consultant to evaluate a proposed ballot measure that would limit hotel expansion, before a single petition in support of the initiative has yet to hit the streets.
City Manager Carol Giovanatto said Friday she wants to be prepared if proponents of the ballot measure get the signatures required to qualify it for a special election.
But Giovanatto said politics is not motivating her request to possibly seek outside help preparing a report on the measure's potential impacts on everything from city finances to its consistency with the city general plan.
“It's just being prepared so that we can give the council the best information possible, so that if they get the ballot measure they will be able to make an informed decision,” she said.
If the measure qualifies for the ballot the council will have the option of scheduling an election or adopting the ordinance outright.
Giovanatto's request, which she will make to the City Council at its meeting Monday night, does not have a dollar amount attached to it. She said she has the authority as city manager to enter into contracts without council approval.
The council could ask that the analysis be generated only if proponents of the ballot measure succeed in getting at least 10 percent of the city's registered voters to sign the petition. That process could take months. The city would then have 30 days to complete the impact document under election law.
Giovanatto said city staff did not request the process with the most recent ballot measure that sought a sales tax increase in the city. She said that was because city leaders spearheaded that effort.
Mayor Ken Brown said Friday he supports Giovanatto's current request with regard to the hotel ordinance.
“I think it's the prudent thing to do. I think the city needs to be prepared in a real practical way,” he said.
The ballot measure would cap any new hotel, or expansion of an existing one, to 25 rooms unless the city's hotel occupancy rate over the previous calendar year exceeded 80 percent. In 2012, the rate was just under 65 percent.