Sonoma, Calif. (KGO) — Sonoma Valley residents have long wanted a meeting place in Boyce Springs.
A much-anticipated square location on the doorstep of the Post Office and Empire Barbering Studio.
Erick Gomez Miranda of Empire Barber Studio said, “I think it’s great to be honest. For my business, it will bring more business.”
But where Eric Gomez Miranda sees opportunity, others say they fear risk.
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Sonoma County is considering the possibility of working with real estate investor Ken Mattson to build the plaza, according to First District Supervisor Susan Gorin.
“Ken Mattson approached me about two years ago with the idea of working and partnering with the county,” Superintendent Goring said.
Veronica Napoles created the website wakeUpsonoma.com.
“I don’t think their intention is to develop. I think their intention is just to acquire,” Napoli said.
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Napoles said the site’s mission is to create transparency and accountability for all of the properties and projects that Tim Lefever and Ken Mattson own and manage in Sonoma Valley.
Mattson and Lefever bought dozens of properties around Sonoma through the partnership, including the property where Gomez Miranda works.
“I’m their tenant, I mean, so far so good. I’ve had no problems,” Gomez-Miranda said.
At a recent public meeting, Matteson said: “I know there are concerns that we’ve done a lot in town. I believe our larger vision for the area fits perfectly with what we’ve been talking about for the last 20 or 25 years. Everyone wants to see the Springs area grow this year.”
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But some residents are skeptical. In addition to the volume of purchases that some have found, some feel that they are not developing fast enough.
“One of the landmarks in Sonoma that hasn’t lived up to its potential, if you will, is the Sonoma Cheese Factory,” said Sonoma Mayor Sandra Lowe.
“Of course, we want businesses to thrive there so that people in the community use them,” she continued.
Sonoma resident Avram Goldman said: “These businesses, which used to be vibrant, are not as vibrant as they used to be.”
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Partly for these reasons, while Plaza is popular, not everyone welcomes the proposed partnership. Director Gorin said Mattson was the only one investing in Springs.
“I’d love to have some developers come to Springs with some great ideas. Then I’d work with them,” Gorin said.
“What is the county doing to reach these developers,” ABC7 News reporter Melanie Woodrow asked Goering.
“It’s not necessarily the county’s job to put shingles in the Springs area and say come on,” Goering responded.
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While filming this story, Woodrow met LeFever outside The Depot restaurant, which he said was purchased as a partnership. LeFever declined to be interviewed on camera, but told Woodrow that he and Matteson were real estate investors and that some of the properties they invested in did not yet have licenses.
Sonoma County’s permitting process has been slow, Goldman said.
Still, he wants to determine if a partnership has been formed and progress has been made.
“If we’re going to get an agreement with you, Ken, there’s got to be some assurance and some accountability, there’s got to be something built in,” Goldman said in a recent public meeting.
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Mayor Lowe said she has some ideas for building within the city limits.
“We’re looking at some kind of penalty or vacancy tax to force them to do something, either sell it or keep the business going,” Lowe said.
Superintendent Gorin said there could be another public meeting in January or February to discuss the plaza.
In an emailed statement, Ken Mattson’s spokesperson wrote: “Members and leaders of the Boyes Hot Springs community have expressed their desire for a community square. We have offered to work with them to make this dream a reality. There are supporters and opposition or this project, we are all listening.”
While there is no square to congregate, the proposed site remains the talk of the town.
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