Power plays and political sniping are becoming more apparent in the debate over chain stores in Sonoma as the city inches closer to becoming one of the few in California to strictly regulate corporate businesses. Even the normally routine matter of what issues city councilmembers can bring up for discussion at public meetings is now under review after one councilmember accused another of wasting staff time with the chain store debate.
Sonoma city leaders again will consider new restrictions on chain stores, including possibly banning them, amid continuing controversy over plans by Staples to open an office supply store at the site of a former Ford dealership. The City Council’s discussion tonight will mark the second time in less than a month that city leaders have tackled the contentious issue.
Controversy again is brewing in Sonoma over a chain store possibly coming to town, in this case a Peet’s Coffee & Tea that would be a block away from the Plaza in what used to be the city’s fire station. A deal being negotiated with the city’s redevelopment agency would require the developer to lease space in the new retail complex to a “local-serving” coffee shop and restaurant. Some are worried that Peet’s would threaten Sonoma’s independently owned stores.
In 2007, Cotati passed an ordinance limiting the number of chain restaurants in town. Now, Peet’s Coffee & Tea is reviving its 2-year-old bid to open a store on Old Redwood Highway. One resident calls it “the Wal-Mart of coffee.” But two City Council members say the coffeemaker is welcome in Cotati. Will the Planning Commission renew its use permit?