|By Barbara Henry, North County Times, Escondido, Calif.|
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Sep. 2, 2004 - CARLSBAD, Calif. -- After a series of speakers heaped praise on plans to build a 700-room resort complex near Legoland California, the Carlsbad Planning Commission gave its stamp of approval Wednesday to the project.
Commission Chairman Frank Whitton called it a "marvelous project," while Commissioner Julie Baker complimented developer Grand Pacific Resorts for its low-impact grading plans. Commissioner Jeff Segall praised the proposed pedestrian walkway link to the theme park next door.
"I'm very much in favor of the project," Segall said, commenting that it was noteworthy that such a large proposal had generated so little public concern. "I think that speaks of how well the project was put together and presented."
Grand Pacific plans to build 350 hotel rooms, 350 time-share units, two restaurants, four pools, tennis courts and 30,000 square feet of conference space on approximately 57 acres on the south side of Cannon Road.
The commission voted 6-0 in favor of the resort, with new Commissioner Michael Cardosa abstaining because of a conflict of interest. Commissioners said their only reservation was that an adjoining parcel once proposed for a golf course isn't being included. As the resort project moves ahead, it becomes less likely the golf course will ever be built, Commissioner Monty Montgomery said.
Representatives for Grand Pacific Resorts said there was little they could do about that since they don't own the other property.
If their project wins approval from the City Council, construction on the $150 million, Mediterranean-style resort could begin next year, said Tim Stripe, co-president of Grand Pacific Resorts.
Representatives for Legoland, the Carlsbad Chamber of Commerce and the Carlsbad Convention & Visitors Bureau said they couldn't wait.
Bureau Executive Director Kurt Burkhart said the city has two high-end resorts and many limited service hotels, but little in the notch just below Four Seasons Resort Aviara and La Costa Resort and Spa.
"(This project) is precisely the kind of full-service, upscale property that's needed right now in Carlsbad," he said.
Resort room rates will be $130 to $140 a night, while the "vacation villa" time shares will range in price from $12,000 to $21,000 for a week, Stripe has said.
Chamber Chief Executive Officer Ted Owen said that the project would create 800 temporary jobs during construction and 530 permanent jobs once the resort opens. The first phase of the project is scheduled to open in 2006.
Jobs were also on the mind of insurance businesswoman Socorro Anderson, who has repeatedly campaigned for more housing for the city's low-income workers. Saying she supported the resort concept, Anderson said she had concerns about where the resort's workers would live, given the high cost of housing in Carlsbad.
While the project is great for tourism and area businesses, the city already has housing issues, she said, adding that she knew it wasn't a condition of the development, but wished something could be done.
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