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Sonoma’s hospital initiates land sale process in closed door meeting

Posted on January 5, 2017 by Sonoma Valley Sun

After what appears to have been closed door decisions made about the sale of land currently owned by Sonoma Valley Hopsital, Hospital District Board member Bill Boerum has gone public with his objections, both to the District’s decision-making process and the sale of the parcel of land. A public meeting taking place tonight will be held for formal approval of a Request for Proposals (RFP) the hospital plans to send to “interested parties” in the development community.

The land in question is zoned for residential use, and is one of the largest remaining undeveloped parcels of land within the city limits of Sonoma. The 2.8 acre parcel (called the South Lot) bordering MacArthur Street on the South was acquired by the hospital through funding provided by a private donor, but that donor expects the return of funds, per an agreement to make those funds available for only a limited time.

According to documents prepared by hospital CEO Kelly Mather in anticipation of the meeting, “Given that the loan is payable in August 2018 and the amount of time that it will likely take for a developer to go through the permit process, a decision on this property should be made in the first quarter of 2017 to ensure the District has the funds to make the $2,000,000 loan repayment date in August 2018.”

Mr. Boerum posted a video on YouTube, in which he states his objections to the sale, and the process leading up to it. According to District minutes, Boerum objected to the closed door meeting, expressing the opinion that such closed sessions should be reserved for discussion of actual real estate negotiations, not the discussion of the proper disposition of the land. He refused to participate in the closed session meeting, and indicated that it violates provisions of the Brown Act.

According to the District minutes of the meeting of December 1st, “It is Mr. Boerum’s opinion that California Government Code: Trade Secrets Regarding Business has become too broad an umbrella and items should be limited to more specific issues like negotiations that include pricing, CEO Evaluations, and competitive strategic issues. For these reasons, Mr. Boerum declined to attend the Closed Session.”

The land sale decision comes at a time when housing in Sonoma has risen to a primary concern and has been the focus of city government in its attempt to address Sonoma’s housing shortage and sky-high prices. If the land is sold and developed for housing, 20% of the units created will have to be affordable, but affordable housing advocates are seeking larger housing numbers. Boerum feels more time is needed for community discussion before the land is sold, and that the process should be slowed-down to provide for that.

A public meeting of the District Board will be held tonight at 6PM at the community meeting room on First Street West. That will be preceded by a closed session meeting beginning at 5:30. The agenda packet is available online.

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