Sebastopol OKs hotel zoning for The Barlow

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SEBASTOPOL -- The Sebastopol City Council voted unanimously to approve a zoning amendment that could clear the way for a 60-room hotel at The Barlow development on the eastern edge of downtown.

An initial concept calls for a two-story, 34,000-square-foot "boutique" hotel on three acres of vacant space at the site of the former Barlow Company cannery, recently redeveloped into a regional hub for food and wine business for West County.

The allowance for a possible hotel is restricted to a portion of The Barlow project and would only be allowed in existing buildings in this area, according to Planning Director Kenyon Webster. If and when an actual proposal is made, applicants will need a use permit, California Environmental Quality Act compliance and a public hearing before the Planning Commission. If approved, a design review would also be required.

"No use permit application for a hotel at The Barlow has been submitted, but it appears there is serious interest by the Palisades Hospitality Group, based on their comments at the council meeting," Mr. Webster said.

Barney Aldridge, The Barlow's main developer, has identified San Rafael-based Palisades Hospitality Group as the potential hotel developer. The group owns and operates boutique hotels in Calistoga, St. Helena and Sonoma. The goal is to open the hotel by next summer.

Developers had to get city approval because the proposed site sits within a flood plain, prompting concerns and a recommendation by the Planning Commission to not approve the amended zoning.

But the City Council noted that with The Barlow project nearing completion, Sebastopol will likely become more of a destination for well-heeled tourists. The city currently lacks high-end lodging.

Mr. Aldridge said average room rates the planned hotel could be about $270 per night.

According to the city, a boutique hotel could generate as much as $2 million in retail sales, $300,000 in annual tax revenues and create 70 jobs.

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