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Sonoma Plaza hotel builder revises plan amid protests

  • The revised plan for Chateau Sonoma Hotel & Spa. Key changes include shrinking the total project by 7,000-square feet, removing the Lynch building from the project and including one restaurant instead of three. (COURTESY RENDERING)

The developer of a proposed luxury hotel that has sparked controversy in Sonoma released revised plans Thursday that reflect a smaller footprint and a redesign of the original French theme.

Key changes to the project formerly known as Chateau Sonoma Hotel & Spa include shrinking the total project by 7,000 square feet, removing the Lynch building from the project and including one restaurant instead of two.

The revised project does not yet have a new name.

"I am proud of our efforts to engage the community and confident this project will be a good fit for Sonoma," Darius Anderson, founder and CEO of Kenwood Investments, said in a press release Thursday.

Anderson did not return a message seeking comment.

Bill Hooper, president of Anderson's development firm, Kenwood Investments, said Thursday that the number of hotel rooms being proposed remains unchanged at 59.

Hooper said that fewer rooms than that would make it "very difficult to make that investment work."

A group calling itself Preserving Sonoma is seeking changes to the city's general plan that 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.

The group contends that the measure is necessary to protect the city's quality of life from what its members consider to be major hotel development.

Opponents say the measure would stymie economic growth and result in a de facto ban on most hotels by setting an impossibly high occupancy standard.

Larry Barnett, a former city mayor and spokesman for initiative proponents, said Thursday the group is not focused on the specific design of Anderson's proposed hotel.

"Instead, we're concerned about the issue we have identified, which has to do with scale primarily, and the effect on the character of the town in general," he said.

The group has started circulating petitions in support of the initiative. It needs signatures from at least 10 percent of the city's registered voters to qualify the measure for a general election, and 15 percent for a special election. The latter could be scheduled earlier but would cost the city an estimated $30,000.

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