Sonoma Sun ~ Sonoma Valley Sun


Springs land use issues to pay attention to before it’s too late

Posted on June 1, 2017 by Sonoma Valley Sun


There are two issues facing our Highway 12 commercial corridor that could create lasting negative consequences if the community isn’t proactive.

Possible tearing down of the historic Big Three building

The building has sat empty for 14 months since the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn closed the restaurant. It’s starting to show signs of deterioration that occurs when a building is left vacant and unmaintained. It’s at the intersection of Highway 12 and Boyes Boulevard, which locals commonly refer to as the center of Boyes Hot Springs.

According to Michael Acker’s book, “Images of America: The Springs Resort Towns of Sonoma Valley,” the existing Big Three was built in 1924, after the original building, built in 1921, burned down in the great Boyes Hot Springs fire of 1923. Originally called Woodleaf Store, it was managed by Marion Green for 29 years. Green twice was elected president of the Sonoma County Retail Grocers Association, the only woman to hold that position.

The Mission Inn has been quiet regarding its intentions for the property. However, it’s no secret that management would like to have a conference center at SMI. Rumors abound, and there’s good reason for the fear, that SMI will tear down the Big Three to build a conference center. This would not only change the historic character of the Springs’ most important intersection, it would be a land use that is contrary to our community’s vision to have local-serving businesses on Highway 12.

My dream is that SMI would do the community a favor and sell the Big Three property to someone with imagination, who will save the building and convert it into a destination to which both locals and tourists would go. In my 30 plus years in the Valley, SMI has never been successful with use of that property. Various menu alterations where always overpriced for the quality, and even most hotel guests didn’t bother to eat there.

What do we do? Contact SMI management to ask them to not tear down the building and to not let it fall into a state of deterioration. Also, contact our county supervisor, Susan Gorin, to tell her you don’t want to see a conference center at the corner of Boyes Boulevard and Highway 12. If we wait until SMI presents plans to the county, it could be too late.

Cannabis retailers along Highway 12

Medical marijuana businesses have long wanted to locate in the Springs. A few years ago when Valerie Brown was county supervisor, an unpermitted medical marijuana dispensary opened on the east side of Highway 12, near Flowery Elementary School. Residents quickly complained to the county and officials took swift action to shut the illegal dispensary down.

About this same time, a then Boyes Hot Springs mom, Sioux Messenger, led a petition drive against allowing a medical marijuana dispensary in the Springs. More than 1,000 residents and business owners signed the petition. There was also a heated discussion about the issue at a Springs Community Alliance meeting, which ended with the majority in attendance voting to have the Alliance take a stand against marijuana dispensaries in the Springs. Supervisor Brown also had concerns about marijuana dispensaries, and was supportive of the community’s position.

We are in a different political environment now. California’s legalization of marijuana for recreational use takes effect January 1. An increasing number of entrepreneurs are getting into the cannabis business. They are buying up warehouse space in Santa Rosa for cannabis growing and manufacturing, and will be looking for locations for retail outlets.

Our current supervisor has a different relationship with the cannabis industry than did Supervisor Brown. Campaign finance records on the Sonoma County Registrar of Voters website show that Supervisor Gorin last year accepted major campaign donations from three cannabis businesses: $2,894 from Tiffany Devitt of CannaCraft; $2,500 from Jonathan Cachat of Conscious Cannabis Ventures, and $1,500 from Albert Eaddy of Redwood Herbal Alliance. She also received $150 from the Sonoma County Growers Association, which represents marijuana growers.

If we don’t want to see cannabis retailers along the Highway 12 commercial corridor where our children walk to school, to the bus stop, to the skate park, to the teen center, etc., then we need to make that clear now. In addition to telling Supervisor Gorin, I suggest we seek to include in the Springs Specific Plan language that states marijuana retailers and manufacturers aren’t allowed.

The opinions and positions expressed by Sun columnists do not necessarily reflect those of the Sun, its management or editorial board. 

7 thoughts on “Springs land use issues to pay attention to before it’s too late

  1. SOS

    Save Our Springs — Save Our Sonoma

    We need to march in front of the bldg on weekends. SMI already in discussions.

    Contact Patricia Cullinan of Landmarks Commission!

  2. Supervisor Gorin usually does not listen to me. But, I will be sending her an e-mail. This building should be converted into a “mini mall” for local small business people. They even have a parking lot next to it, that could be used for outdoor bites and drinks.

  3. Susan “Let’s Have a Meeting” Gorin is a joke. Other supes on board have voted against her on several key issues. She needs to go.

  4. I was a Colorado resident when marijuana use became legal there and I saw the historic districts change from places with cool vintage stores, coffee shops, and cafes to streets over-saturated with dispensaries. It changes the landscape. It changes the neighborhoods. I agree that we need to, as a community, discourage marijuana retailers on Highway 12, where we have schools, neighborhoods, and cool shops.

  5. I don’t know if you can do much to stop the Devil Weed now . The state and county have got their feelers out .Like all the rest , they smell money .

  6. Rather than a confrontation with SMI over the use of the site, why not have a constructive collaborative dialogue between the neighborhood and the Inn that could produce a win-win for both, preserving both the ‘charm’ of the Springs AND bringing in what could be a major job-&-business generator for the neighborhood — i.e., the conference center? A new conference center could easily generate more traffic for existing local businesses than waiting for the random customer to stop in when the traffic light changes. Perhaps a conference center designed with the community in mind might have leasable spaces for new businesses on the perimeter or as part of the center itself that might even be designed to preserve the facade of the edifice but provide the $$-generating potential of a conference center for SMI. Having new local businesses that could service the conference center & its attendees could be a lucrative win-win, far more beneficial than a collection of often here-today-gone-tomorrow small retail businesses that depend precariously on the increasingly rare (in the age of online shopping) local walk-ins to keep the doors open.

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