Chateau Sonoma Luxury Hotel—Dignified Addition or Traffic Hazard?

The proposed complex on West Napa Street could bring 'international flair' and jobs, but some people called it incompatible at Thursday's public hearing.

Plans for Chateau Sonoma—a three-story, luxury hotel and restaurant complex on West Napa Street—drew a big crowd to a public study session Thursday night. Many of the speakers opposed the project planned for the Plaza vicinity, based on concerns about traffic and community compatibility, while others said the venture would bring "dignity" and "respect" to the downtown and create jobs.

The complex would include a 59-unit hotel with French architectural influences, two restaurants, a health club and spa, retail and office space, event center, outdoor cafes and a parking area. Two buildings—the current Chateau Sonoma antique store and the Sonoma Index-Tribune—would need to be torn down and others constructed to bring the vision into being.

The project sponsor is Kenwood Investments, whose founder and CEO is Darius Anderson, majority shareholder of the Index-Tribune newspaper. At the special meeting of the Planning Commission, Kenwood's president Bill Hooper said the project's benefits would include job creation and hospitality industry internships. He said many "green" aspects, including rainwater recycling and vegetated roof features, had been factored in.

Chateau Sonoma is consistent with the commercial land use designation in the General Plan, according to a report by Planning Director David Goodison. However, some aspects, such as historic preservation, design compatibility and traffic issues will need to be reviewed, he said. Due to the size of the project, its location in the Historic District Overlay zone and its proximity to the Plaza and Plaza National Landmark District, the project will receive "heightened scrutiny with respect to design and visual compatibility," he said. The proposed demolitions will need the approval of the Design Review Commission, and there will be an independent peer review of Kenwood's studies of all the buildings' potential historic significance. Kenwood found that the Lynch building was historically significant, for example.

Some residents spoke in support, saying the project will bring respect, dignity and an international flair to the downtown.

However, others talked of the project becoming a major traffic hazard.

"I am adamantly opposed to putting a stoplight in front of our plaza," one woman said. "I think this project will require this and it violates the history of our town. When people come into Sonoma, they want to see a country town, with some sophistication. "

Another woman said, "Sonoma is the Andersons' town as well and I think they'll do a good job."

Kenwood representatives talked of using "real materials" such as hand crafted plaster and terra cotta tile to create an appearance of "dignity and solidity."

However, one resident questioned whether more restaurants are needed and another expressed sadness over the height of the buildings potentially blocking the town's mountain view. One speaker asked how the project might affect the town's sewer and water resources.

Many speakers who addressed the Planning Commission had to stand in the packed Community Meeting Room's lobby, waiting their turn, while others watched the session on the lobby's closed circuit television.

No direction was taken by the commission in a general discussion of the issues.

The public will have many more opportunities to weigh in on the project. The next steps include an initial study of any potential environmental impact, a draft Environmental Impact Report, a review by the Sonoma Valley Citizens Advisory Commission, a Planning Commission review and certification of the draft EIR, a use permit review, a review of the demolition permit and an architectural review. Interested citizens will be able to attend public hearings at every stage.

To see the full staff report on this project, presented at Thursday's meeting, click here to go to the city of Sonoma website.

What do you think about the proposed Chateau Sonoma complex? Tell us in the comments.

andrew August 25, 2012 at 06:25 AM
Worst idea ever. Might as well destroy a bunch of houses to build an expressway across town as well because traffic is going to suck even more than it already does.
Angela White August 25, 2012 at 03:23 PM
Sonoma already has "respect and dignity" because it is a quaint, lovely little town that hasn't sold out to being commercialized. I cringed at the amount of traffic this could potentially bring to our downtown. We already see frustrated drivers at every crosswalk in town, bicyclist being hit by cars and major work needed to repair old beaten up roads. I think if every hotel, motel and B&B is packed to the gills, every season, because we all know Sonoma's business is seasonal, then perhaps this option may be considered, but I doubt very much that that is the case. I think this will probably make some developer good money and we can be one step closer to the traffic nightmare on highway 29 in Napa.
Dee Baucher August 27, 2012 at 05:32 AM
Pretty design. Would look nice... somewhere else. The plaza is already too congested and difficult to navigate. This grandiose scheme has clearly been conceived to maximize profit for the developers... but the scale of the project will compromise the current ambiance of the town square, and will ultimately impact cars and foot traffic to a large extent. Either the project needs to be significantly reduced, or the people of Sonoma (as well as many of our visitors) will need to give up their town center, as it will only be functional as an over-congested tourist site. In addition, the two sides of town will be fully segregated, since transit across town will be made nearly impossible.
Gabrielle Fogle September 30, 2012 at 04:28 AM
We have to be very careful here. This is a slippery slope. Anyone who has been to Yountville recently , and who knew it 20 years ago, knows what something like the Chateau Sonoma Hotel can begin in a small town. As a proud resident of the City of Sonoma, I know that we don't need more high-cost lodging. Nor do I want to deal with any increased traffic in the plaza area. (Anyone experience the daily deluge of full-sized tractor-trailer trucks delivering supplies to The Lodge in Sonoma while blocking at least half of the street five mornings out of seven?) Well, believe this; we don't want or need that to happen on two main arteries in the plaza area...ever. While I appreciate that this investment group has positioned itself nicely to attempt such a large-project in our precious plaza (in terms of property acquisitions, etc.), I would rather see something small-scale and less "dignified" happen, if anything. If I wanted to live in Yountville today, I would have purchased there...
Ralph Hutchinson March 15, 2013 at 05:28 AM
The meeting room was packed people watched it on closed circuit TV in the lobby. A substantial majority of the quotes were negative and all these coments were opposed. I think that speaks volumes for Sonoma. NO Chateau!!!


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