The City of Sonoma has postponed a permit hearing after receiving a letter contesting the appeal of a residential development on a prominent Sonoma hillside — a letter that cites possible litigation and fines if the plans aren’t approved.
The Planning Commission had last year approved separate applications by Bill Jasper for the development of three residences on three lots at Fourth Street East and Brazil Street. Those decisions were subsequently appealed to the City Council. A public hearing date had been set February for February 5.
The City has postponed that hearing after formal contact by the legal firm Zacks, Freeman & Patterson, which represents Jasper. “The projects continue to comply with all objective general plan and zoning standards and criteria,” it states.
The letter rejects the appeal argument that the plans disregard the Sonoma Hillside Ordinance, enacted by the City in 2003, limiting construction to 5,000 total square feet per lot.
The letter also contests the appeal assertion that the project, which covers three lots, has been presented as three independent proposals “in order to avoid the responsibility of undertaking an environmental impact report, which would consider the combined impacts of the development.”
Among several other points, the letter argues that state housing law “compels the City to approve” the projects, particularly when “we are in a housing crisis.”
The law firm warned the City Council that ignoring state housing law could lead to fines of $30,000. “If litigation were to arise, our clients would prevail.”
The City is postponing the meeting to research the law and prepare a response, the appellants said in a post to their website, Protect Sonoma. “We don’t think it will take very long, and are confident our city leaders will recognize this implied threat for what it is: a bully tactic.”