By DEREK MOORE
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Sonoma city leaders again will consider new restrictions on chain stores, including possibly banning them, amid continuing controversy over a national office supply company’s plans to open a store there.
The City Council’s discussion tonight will mark the second time in less than a month that city leaders have tackled the contentious issue.
On April 4, council members rejected calls for an emergency ordinance that would have prevented a Staples store from opening in a 14,400-square-foot building on West Napa Street that had been a Ford dealership.
Several council members, however, said they wanted to continue discussing whether the city should adopt zoning regulations that would affect future applications for chain or big-box stores.
The council is not expected to take action tonight other than giving direction to staff.
“I think as a council we owe it to the community to take a look at it and see if it’s appropriate to the town,” said Councilman Steve Barbose.
Barbose acknowledged the difficulty of defining a chain or big box store. He specifically cited Mary’s Pizza Shack, which has 17 restaurants, including one on Sonoma’s historic plaza.
“I’m not sure people understand the complexity of it and the extent to which there are already quite a few businesses (in Sonoma) that would probably fit that definition,” he said.
Calistoga regulates “formula businesses,” which are broadly defined in that city’s municipal code as any that shares a name, service, logo or design “substantially identical to another business within or outside Calistoga.”
Such businesses are subject to use permit review. Formula restaurants and hotels are banned outright in the city’s downtown.
Plans to open a Rite-Aid at the edge of Calistoga city limits were withdrawn by the company in 2007 after community protest, said Ken MacNab, the city planning and building manager.
But MacNab said such opposition could be harder to sustain in a bad economy that has led to more vacant storefronts in Calistoga.
“Supporting independent businesses versus economic development and filling vacancies will be an issue,” MacNab said.
The Sonoma council meeting is at 6 p.m.