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Windsor Town Green real estate office rejected

Windsor council votes 4-0 to save sites for more retail-oriented businesses


Hoping to foster a healthy downtown in a challenging economic climate, Windsor Town Council members Wednesday night rejected a bid by a well-known real estate company to locate its offices on a prominent corner of the Town Green.

The council on a 4-0 vote decided that offices like Century 21 North Bay Alliance do not belong on the ground floor of buildings in an area envisioned as a downtown shopping and restaurant area.

The concern is that offices do not draw enough foot traffic or fit in with the retail establishments. But there also are a number of vacancies caused by stores that have gone out of business and landlords willing to lease the spaces for office use.

“We have too many inactive uses now,” Mayor Debora Fudge said. “You can go past the tipping point and create the death knell for downtown.”

Council members heard from a dozen or so speakers Wednesday, although Fudge noted there is a majority that wants to protect active retail uses promoted in the town’s development guidelines, specifically along Windsor Road, Windsor River Road and McClelland Drive.

The Town Green Village was designed with a mixture of townhomes built above shops and restaurants adjoining the four-acre Green. Business offices were supposed to be relegated to peripheral areas such as Johnson Street and Emily Rose Circle.

“When I go to Healdsburg Square, Sonoma Square or Kentucky Street in Petaluma, I don’t go there to walk by professional offices,” said Councilwoman Robin Goble, explaining the need to restrict office uses. “We want to have active commercial uses.”

The Town Green is a hub of the community, said KC’s Downtown Grill owner David Culley. “But as an economic hub, we’ve missed the mark unfortunately,” he told the council, in arguing for the need to preserve retail uses before offices.

“Too many prime retail locations are already taken up by service businesses or even offices,” agreed Thomasin Alyxander, owner of the bead store Ubeadquitous.

In a letter to council members, she said that for too long “landlords in Windsor have operated under a ‘fill at any cost’ mentality with no regard to the longterm commercial health of downtown Windsor.”

She said the town doesn’t need another real estate office “cluttering up the streetscape,” and the arrival of Century 21 at McClelland and Windsor Road would put two practically across the street from each other.

But Realtor Bob Santucci said his award-winning Century 21 North Bay Alliance business would have an attractive storefront. He noted that its office in Healdsburg draws plenty of people who pop in just for information.

Other Century 21 real estate brokers said the office would be open seven days a week and bring clients and agents downtown for coffee, lunch and dinner.

Goble said it was a difficult decision to turn down Century 21. “We want places for you to stay and grow,” she told the real estate agents, but added “You picked a spot that was just a lightning rod for everyone.”

Pharmacist Mark Burger, who has a store in the Town Green Village and also lives there, said it’s a free market and market forces should dictate what businesses go in.

Windsor planning officials wanted the Town Council to weigh in on the issue because of recent changes downtown.

For one, many of the properties that once belonged to Town Green developer Orrin Thiessen have changed ownership as a result of his bankruptcy. Prior restrictions on businesses — including offices — are no longer in effect as a result of the foreclosures, according to Planning Director Jim Bergman.

The adoption of Windsor’s Station Area Plan earlier this year also discourages ground-floor offices in prominent downtown commercial locations.

The station plan, which is part of a transit-oriented vision for the future in which people work and live within walking distance of trains and buses, aims to create active uses that are attractive to pedestrians.

While offices may be permitted on an interim basis, the plan calls specifically for stores, restaurants, cafes, markets, bars, theaters, commercial recreation and entertainment, personal and convenience services, tourism-oriented services, hotel lobbies, banks, child-care services, libraries, museums and galleries.

Bergman said the concept of not allowing ground floor offices is not without precedent. He said five of the other eight cities in Sonoma County also have some type of restriction on the establishment of ground-floor offices.

Town Council members a few years ago banned a variety of uses near the Town Green, including tattoo businesses, massage parlors, smoke shops, fortunetellers, bail bonds and check-cashing stores.

Officials said the intent was to avoid a “skid row” appearance that a proliferation of such businesses could create.

The restrictions were prompted by a short-lived smoke shop that opened in a prominent spot of Town Green Village in 2008.

Alarmed by the bongs and drug-related merchandise offered for sale just steps away from students walking to and from the high school, the Town Council ended up restricting new smoke shops to other commercial zones.

(You can reach Staff Writer Clark Mason at 521-5214 or clark.mason@pressdemocrat.com)

17 Responses to “Windsor Town Green real estate office rejected”

  1. If the decision is good for the economy and good for the public, count me in.

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  2. J95492 says:

    I believe the best way to handle the “anti-office” situation is to designate certain areas as “office friendly”. Specifically on Johnson Street where the newer units were built (with elevator access to the condos above). That area is far enough away from the Green itself to not take-up valuable retail space on the Green and would therefore not detour foot traffic. Last I was on Johnson Street (when Structure U was there), the store fronts were nearly and the number of parked cars was nearly null. It was actually quite creepy, to tell you the truth. With the Thiessen bankruptcy, the HOA is not receiving dues from all these vacant spaces. Why not take full advantage of the off the Green empty commercial units? They may not bring much foot traffic but again, since they’d be so far off the path from the Green itself, I find it to be a great compromise AND as an added benefit, bring in much needed HOA dues!!!

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  3. Terry says:

    To you Agenda 21 folk and Tea Partiers…it is irritating to read your rants about everything just so you can propagate your own agenda. You come across as conspiracy theory crazies. You give those of us that believe in property rights a bad name. I am a fiscal conservative and a social liberal that believes in responsible development and good design while at the same time realizing that we must dialog and find common ground if we are to progress at all.

    It bothers me that when ever I post, people on the extreme left automatically consider me a Tea Party Agenda 21 radical…just because I believe that business owners actually do have some property and business rights. Businesses are as much a part of our community as neighborhood interests.

    So, you Agenda 21 folk and Tea Party radicals, get off your high horses and set your feet on the ground of reality and join the human race, or at least maybe go seek out a therapist who can help you with that.

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  4. Beef King says:

    Deborah Fudge.
    It’s not the name of a civic leader, it’s a verb for regressive political ideology.

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  5. James Bennett says:

    MOCKINGBIRD: Although a sweet guy personally, I talk pretty big when it comes to our freedom, libertys and the oppression currently being imposed on us.

    If there is something in particular you’d like to refute, bring it.

    If you want to refute the existance of UN Agenda 21 Sustainable Development and its impact on our lives here and now…
    you’re ‘gonna be glad you use a pseudonym on this blog.

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  6. MOCKINGBIRD says:

    Fiscal Conservative-it’s scary humor. I could laugh too, if you Area 51, oops, Agenda 21 people weren’t so serious about conspiracies. Ironically, I and Bear are pretty moderate in our views. Politics have gone so far to the crazy right we look like commies.

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  7. Bear:

    I send you the best wishes during this difficult time. If banging heads with truculent conservatives offers you a welcome diversion, consider my head to be your personal tackling dummy.

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  8. Fiscal Conservative says:

    May the good Lord be with your Wife and family during this difficult time.

    I’m glad you can find the humor here.

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  9. bear says:

    My wife is currently dying of Stage IV brain cancer.

    So all you folks are comic relief. Real thanks!

    Offices are regarded as “dead space” in a downtown plaza situation. You need to consider what you want in this location on a permanent basis. Revolving restaurants are OK, as is any retail use.

    If you actually LIVE in Windsor, you can vote the Council out. Otherwise it’s an exercise in democracy.

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  10. Fiscal Conservative says:

    On all future maps Windsor should be colored red. This way the collectivists know where to stay and the Freedom loving Americans can stay clear.

    Windsor’s town council makes Adolf Hitler’s Germany seem peaceful and un-regulated.

    Don’t spend your hard earned money in that town. The taxes go to the gestapo.

    With no other answer for public behaviors like this, I am starting to think James Bennett may have this figured out.

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  11. Sooz says:

    Having once lived and enjoyed Windsor, it surpeises me that the evident lack of businesses currently providing empty store fronts is definitely more disturbing than a proposed Real Estate office. What is more objectionable, a proposed sedate, prospering, stable, long term tenant for a prime space, or another untried restaurant, whose life expectancy sometimes can be measured in maybe just months of successful operation? Bad visions by the City Council. I vote for a Real Estate firm, because they would be good for the Town Green economy.Besides they generate lots of foot traffic, and that is a given.

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  12. Terry says:

    Dear Mayor Fudge and town council, I would have to respectfully disagree with you on this. My husband and I love to go to towns, walk through their plazas, eat their food, shop at their stores, and stop along the way to look at the real estate adds to dream about where we might retire. This too adds to the overall diversity and fabric of a town. In your desire to fulfill a vision, which I agree with, you disregard the reality of market forces which will take care of this matter. Although we love the town green and visit it often, the project was not designed well enough to allow for outdoor dinning and open window restaurants. Until the economy turns around in full recovery, the green will struggle, not because of realtor offices, but because the market is sending you a message. Although I think you are doing a fine job in many many ways, I have to respectfully disagree with you on this.

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  13. John Galt says:

    Last I checked, there are 5 members on the Town Council. Mr. Mason neglected to mention who was not present (or did not cast a vote for whatever reason).

    I’m just curious which one wasn’t part of this vote…..

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  14. Slo Joe says:

    Whatever happened to the hidden hand of commerce? Seems the city counsel needs to revisted the epic tomb “The Wealth Of Nations”. We are not a socialist nation, the market should be deciding what businesses are located in the town green and else where in the City. Under the city line of thinking a strip club would be the most desirable to have in the town green due to the huge amount of traffic it would generate. Traffic that is currently going to Colgan Avenue in Santa Rosa.

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  15. Good Call says:

    Who cares what the realtors want? lol.

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  16. J.R. Wirth says:

    “The council on a 4-0 vote decided that offices like Century 21 North Bay Alliance do not belong on the ground floor of buildings in an area ENVISIONED as a downtown shopping and restaurant area.”

    Envisioned by whom????? By a polit bureau of politicians?

    Do these politicians not realize that realtors eat lunch and want restaurants nearby?

    So much for central planning. Good luck with your “vision” Windsor politicians. I hope your vision is vacant cement floors. Look up the term “anchor tenant” politicians.

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  17. James Bennett says:

    A particuarly adherent Debra Fudge would never acknowledge it to her constituents.
    However the Agenda/ideology they have subscribed to and are fully complicit in won’t require real estate offices. Why?
    Because the Agenda 21 Sustainable Development/ICLEI Plan provides for the abolishment of private property, yes you read it right. No more single family homes or privately held private property.

    THAT’S why they keep building uncalled for Smart Growth gulags, ’cause that’s where the serfs will live. One component of globalist Bernanke’s latest “Quantative Easing”(QE3) plan provides for the Fed to own “toxic” forclosed on real estate. The only “approved” bidders for forclosures will be individuals with BILLION DOLLAR bank accounts/credit lines.

    It’s a good thing we have loyal public officials to look after our interests, or we could be in trouble.

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