Guernewood Park

Property owner Kirk Lok and developers Noble House Hotels & Resorts are proposing a 120-room lodge complex on a 10-acre site in Guernewood Park with Russian River frontage.

A public hearing on the proposed 120-room resort on the Russian River in Guernewood Park, originally scheduled by the county’s Board of Zoning Adjustments (BZA) for Oct. 28, has been postponed until an unannounced date in early 2022. The hearing was postponed at the request of newly-appointed BZA member Eric Koenigshofer who asked for more study time on the 9.61-acre project.

A destination resort has been proposed for the lower river site along Highway 116 since at least 1998. The application is by Kirk Lok, Lok Guernewood Park Development Company. If approved, the resort would be owned and operated by Noble House Hotels & Resorts, of Kirkland, WA. (Lok has sold his business holdings for the property but continues to lead recent community outreach efforts and other advocacy for the project.) Noble House owns two hospitality properties in Napa Valley as well as the Napa Valley Wine Train. The firm also owns several other high-end properties on the West Coast and beyond.

The Guernewood Park resort would include 100 rooms in a main building and 20 suites located in detached bungalows. A second building would include meeting rooms, a spa, restaurant and large lobby with floor to ceiling glass wall overlooking the river. The proposed building height is 53 foot and includes four stories. The address is 17155 Highway 116 and has been very popular with locals and others as a semi-outlaw swimming beach in the past few decades. The resort location is adjacent to the Dubrava condominium project, which was built in the mid-1980s. Hulbert Creek borders the property on the east.

Lok’s proposal would include public beach access, parking and restrooms.

The resort project has been the subject of at least 12 neighborhood and informational meetings since 2018, including two sessions hosted by the Russian River Chamber of Commerce.

A collection of recent public comments, totaling 188 pages, was collected by BZA staff for the Oct. 28 hearing. Many of the comments from lower river businesses, nearby resort owners and the chamber of commerce endorsed Lok’s proposed project. But another half of the comments offered criticisms about traffic impacts on Highway 116, environmental impacts on the heavily-wooded lot, lack of nearby worker housing and very vocal concerns about the size of the resort and total number of rooms.

Lok disputed that the project was too large for the site. “The 100-room level is pretty optimal for present day economics,” said Lok. “It’s expensive to operate lodging in wine country. A successful destination resort adds a lot of visitor spending and activity. Over-night guests spend over four times more in the local community.” He also said overnight guests impact traffic less than a similar number of “day trippers.”

 The Guernewood Park property has been the site of river destination resorts for at least 100 years. It once had its own train stop and hosted big band concerts and other attractions including a bowling alley and roller skating rink. The property has been vacant since 1974 when vandals burned down the semi-vacant Ginger’s Rancho.

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