The City of Sonora could soon be looking to sell an overgrown 24.5-acre property at Stockton Road and Highway 108 that was at one time envisioned as the site of a proposed resort featuring a 172-room hotel with 12 villas, restaurant, health club, two parking garages and conference center with a 12,000-square-foot ballroom.
Historically known as Mill Villa Hill, the property was donated to the city in 1995 by Henry F. Von Eichel, who was described in an article in The Union Democrat as a New York commodities broker. The article about the gift stated he got the land from his father, Diet Von Eichel, who owned a Volkswagen dealership in Modesto and real estate in Modesto and Tuolumne County.
The Sonora Finance Committee has been reviewing the possibility of selling the property to generate some one-time revenue for the cash-strapped city, but the Sonora City Council would ultimately have to approve putting the property on the market and any sale agreement.
In 1990, the council approved plans for the Sonora Ridge project that was proposed to be constructed on 36 acres at the northeast corner of Stockton Road and Highway 108.
The hotel was proposed to be located on the land that was later given to the city, while the property to the north would be the site of a commercial center called the Sonora Ridge Village that would include stores, professional offices, a visitor information center, cafe, roundabout with a waterfall and walking paths.
An undated concept plan for the property after it was acquired by the city listed potential partners in a mixed-use development on the site as the now-defunct Sonora Redevelopment Agency, Sierra Repertory Theatre, Tuolumne County Economic Company (now Authority), Ed Quin McDonald, and Holland & Allen.
Potential pitfalls listed in the concept plan included hillside concerns, the need for a water main extension, past mining activities in the area, and a nearby sewage treatment plant located to the southeast.
A 1995 report by City Engineer Jerry Fuccillo stated that access to the site was limited and required an off-road vehicle from the end of Mill Villa Court to a graded road on a property to the north. He also determined a bridge or large culvert would have to be built across Woods Creek to access the property from Southgate Drive.
Fuccillo concluded in his report that without better access the site’s potential public uses would be limited to open space, such as a “Sonora” sign similar to the “Hollywood” sign in Los Angeles that he suggested could be placed on the hill facing Highway 108.
In an article published in The Union Democrat on Dec. 7, 1995, one week prior to the city taking ownership of the property, then-City Administrator Greg Applegate said a convention center on the site was one of the “more promising possibilities.”
Holiday Inn had approved a franchise for the property but was unable to get enough investors, according to the article.
The property’s value was assessed at $65,463 in 1995, according to Fuccillo’s report. The Tuolumne County Assessor’s Office currently does not have a value listed through ParcelQuest.
Contact Alex MacLean at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 588-4530.