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Sebastopol amends zoning laws for planned high-end hotel

Seeking to capitalize on wine tourism in west Sonoma County, Sebastopol on Tuesday cleared the way for a high-end boutique hotel that reflects the town's quirks and charms.

The city council amended the zoning ordinance for The Barlow, a former apple cannery on the city's eastern edge that is being developed as a center for artisanal food makers.

A hotel on the site would add much needed hotel rooms and revenue to the west Sonoma County hub.

Some opposed the change because its location, next to Laguna de Santa Rosa, is within a flood plain, City Manager Larry McLaughlin said.

San Rafael-based Palisades Hospitality, which owns several hotels including the Solage in Calistoga and El Dorado in Sonoma, is working with The Barlow to develop a hotel at Sebastopol Avenue and Morris Street.

The hotel would be built into four existing industrial chic buildings and be one of The Barlow's anchor tenants along with Kosta Browne Winery, Community Market and others, said Barney Aldridge, developer of the 215,000 square-foot center.

“The fact that they can build into existing buildings, that makes them a winner,” Aldridge said. “The hotel will be designed to be enlivened with the character of Sebastopol. It will fit in with the nature of the west county, which is a little more wild, a little more free spirited.”

Concept sketches posted on The Barlow's Facebook page show a 50-room hotel with a pool, wellness center and meeting space. Each room would come with two bicycles for guests to use to explore Sebastopol.

“We would really like to get something in there that reflects Sebastopol and builds on the success of the Barlow,” said Jennifer Tomaro Evens director of marketing for Palisades Hospitality.

A boutique downtown hotel has the potential to generate up to $300,000 annually in tax revenue, $2 million in retail sales and create 70 jobs, McLaughlin said. Sebastopol currently has two hotels with a total of 113 rooms.

“What we don't have is a high-end hotel that will attract well-to-do tourists to spend money and enhance our businesses,” he said.

The project now moves into the design and permit phase. It could open by next summer, Aldridge said.

Mayor Michael Kyes said a new downtown hotel would help attract tourists and position Sebastopol as a destination to rival other wine country towns like Healdsburg and Sonoma.

“This is really kind of a spa destination, not just a place where you spend the night,” he said. “It fills a need. Sebastopol really has become a destination with The Barlow in terms of what we have to offer.”

You can reach Staff Writer Matt Brown at 521-5206 or matt.brown@pressdemocrat.com.

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