By CLARK MASON
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Jim Winston, the author of Healdsburg’s growth control ordinance, will not be a member of the city committee that will study whether to loosen the growth cap.
After being spurned Monday by the City Council in his request to serve on the group, he asserted that it is pro-growth and likely to recommend a doubling or tripling of the number of new homes that can be built annually in Healdsburg.
By bypassing him, Winston said, “It demonstrates in my opinion that they want to make sure they get the answer they want” — a new ordinance allowing 60 to 90 dwelling units a year, instead of the current restriction of 30.
City Council members say it’s not so simple.
“To say there’s one point of view driving this group is very misleading,” said Councilman Tom Chambers. “It represents a lot of diverse points of view.”
“It’s just unfortunate Mr. Winston feels that way,” said Councilwoman Susan Jones. “The committee hasn’t met yet. We have no idea what the committee will come up with.”
Winston lives outside the Healdsburg city limits.
The city’s voters voters in 2000 approved the measure he crafted that restricts the number of new market-rate homes to no more than 30 per year, or 90 in a three-year period.
But city planners say higher density housing envisioned for the central downtown would be difficult to develop without allowing more units, since only a limited number of building permits could be allocated in one time period.
“We’re not looking at any rampant growth, but diversification,” Chambers said of the mixed uses that are deemed desirable in the central Healdsburg beyond hotels and tourist-oriented businesses.
He said the growth cap may need to be looser “in order for developers to have a residential component and have enough units to pencil out.”
The committee that will scrutinize the Growth Management Ordinance (GMO) is an expansion of the Central Healdsburg Avenue Special Study Area Committee that for the past two years has been crafting a vision for how the area should be redeveloped.
Members of that committee were Chambers, planning commissioners Jerry Eddinger and Phil Luks, and public representatives Ray Holley and Jon Worden. Councilman Jim Wood was added to the expanded committee to help study the growth cap.
On Monday, to fill the two remaining slots on the new eight-member “Growth Management Advisory Committee,” the council added planning commissioner and business consultant Jim Brush, and real estate attorney Ken Cyphers.
Winston was one of six people applying for the two available committee slots.
Mayor Gary Plass, who along with Councilwoman Jones interviewed the applicants, said they all were qualified, but at the end of the day “we picked the best two.”
After studying the issue, the committee is expected to report back to the City Council with a recommendation to potentially put a less restrictive growth cap on the November ballot for voters to approve.
But Winston, a retiree who lives on 46 acres just outside city limits, has vowed to mount an aggressive campaign against any ballot measure that would allow too much growth.
If he had been part of the committee, he said he could have helped craft a “conservative” change to the growth policy that voters would embrace.
Councilman Wood was part of the unanimous council decision choosing the two new committee members, but indicated he would like to have seen Winston on it.
Wood expressed “personal concern and frustration that we really won’t have anyone on the committee who was intimately involved with the GMO as drafted.”
Council members added that Winston is welcome to attend the committee meetings with other members of the public and give his input.
“We will make sure that everyone’s voice is heard,” Chambers said.
In the end, Mayor Plass said it will not be up to the council, nor Winston, what the growth rate should be.
“It’s up to the community to decide what’s working,” he said.