Montage Healdsburg

Montage Healdsburg’s plan to remove 107 blue oak trees to build a new parking lot has been withdrawn by the developer. The plan, approved by the Planning Commission at its May 28 meeting, drew immediate appeal from a group of local environmentalists, who took the formal measure of filing an appeal of the approval.

The appeal, dated June 7, was filed with the city on June 10 and scheduled to be heard by the City Council when it returns for public business at its next meeting, on Aug. 5.

However, on June 27, the developer’s representative Justin Parsons wrote to the city formally requesting that the application be withdrawn. “Based on feedback from the Public Appeal we will be looking to resubmit a scaled down plan to the Planning Department to limit the number of trees that would need to be included in a tree mitigation plan among other considerations,” Parsons wrote.

Scott Duiven, the city’s planning director, told the group that filed the appeal that since the city “has not expended any resources on preparing for the appeal hearing we will be able to return the appeal application fee to you.”

Members of the local Climate Action Healdsburg group collected the appeal application fee, which totaled more than $1,667. Tyra Benoit of the CAH said they were considering holding onto the money or finding other ways “so that we can support future tree protection and planting opportunities,” she wrote when announcing the application withdrawal.

SITE MAP Location of the proposed parking lot of 44 new spaces, and an infill area totaling 13 new spaces, for a total of 57 new spaces at Montage Healdsburg resort.

The Planning Commission’s approval, on a 3-1 vote, took place with only four of the seven-member board in session. The sole vote in opposition came from the commission’s chair, Phil Luks, who criticized the applicants and the city planning staff for under-exploring alternative plans to develop the lot, which may have not required the elimination of 107 blue oak trees.

The CAH appeal filing references that point, reading in part, “The Addendum does not adequately address policies requiring that the applicant address loss of valuable habitat and loss of native trees of significant size. No feasible alternatives were demonstrated.”

Parson’s withdrawal letter suggests that, rather than fight the appeal in an effort to move their proposed project forward, it was prudent to consider revising the resort’s application.

New Commissioner

Meanwhile, the commission was in the process of revising its membership. The City Council had taken applications to name three members before the start of FY 2024-25, which begins this week. At their final City Council meeting of the month, the council confirmed three new members of the Planning Commission, following evaluation of 11 applications by Councilmember Ariel Kelley and Vice Mayor Evelyn Mitchell.

ARCHITECT Jonathan Pearlman, the most recent appointee to the city’s Planning Commission, will serve out the last two years of a current term.

Current Planning Commissioners Stephen Barber and Tom Gerlach were reappointed for new four-year terms. Named to fill an open seat for two years was architect Jonathan Pearlman. The early resignation of Vesna Breznikar caused the two-year vacancy.

Pearlman, a principal of Elevation Architects, has been an increasingly vocal presence in city meetings over the past couple years. He said he moved to Healdsburg full time in 2020, though he’s owned a house in the area since 2010.

“With my architectural background, I have spent my life focusing on the importance of place-making and its impact on quality of life,” he wrote in his application. “Now committed to Healdsburg, I feel I bring my knowledge and experience to bear in visioning and shaping our future while retaining the character of our town.”

The first meeting with the newly constituted Healdsburg Planning Commission will take place Tuesday, Aug. 13. Duiven said they are scheduled to review the Development Agreement and Master Conditional Use Permit for the Mill District. The public agenda packet for the meeting will be published on the city’s website on Aug. 7.

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Christian Kallen has called Healdsburg home for over 30 years. A former travel writer and web producer, he has worked with Microsoft, Yahoo, MSNBC and other media companies, usually in an editorial capacity. He started reporting locally in 2008, moving from Patch to the Sonoma Index-Tribune to the Kenwood Press before joining the Healdsburg Tribune in 2022.


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