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Planned Healdsburg hotel stirs debate

At five stories, the 75-room luxury hotel proposed for downtown Healdsburg would be the tallest building in the city, with sweeping views from the roof-top restaurant and swimming pool.

The “boutique” hotel with an art gallery and cafe on the ground floor aims to make a grand statement, projecting it as “one of the most important destinations of downtown Healdsburg.”

Representatives for The Kessler Collection, a Florida-based hotel company, spelled out the details in a prospectus submitted to the city.

Located a half-block south of the town plaza on the east side of Healdsburg Avenue, it would add more upscale lodging for the tourist haven, with a health spa, “state-of-the-art” meeting rooms and fitness center.

Kessler plans to market to the vacation and tourist element, but also aims to capture group and corporate business, including some of “the world's best companies during the week.”

But even before plans for the hotel were submitted to the city on Sept. 26, word leaked out about the hotel size, prompting debate on whether it represents a tipping point that will detract from Healdsburg's charm.

“The loss of small town character and too much tourism are the big issues. The big hotel is an example of that,” Warren Watkins, a retired math teacher, said Thursday.

Watkins heads Healdsburg Citizens for Sustainable Solutions, a group that fought Saggio Hills, the large residential and hotel development planned on the north end of the city. The group lost a legal battle to reduce the size of the project, which has yet to break ground.

Watkins, who says his group has more than 100 supporters, is considering whether to launch an initiative to limit the size of new hotels in Healdsburg, similar to the question before voters on Nov. 19 in the City of Sonoma. But he said he will await the outcome of the Sonoma election before deciding whether to proceed.

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