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Carmel Valley Ranch, Under New Owner Blackstone Group,
Seeking  Approvals to Convert to a Condo-Hotel

By Laith Agha, The Monterey County Herald, Calif.McClatchy-Tribune Business News

Nov. 6, 2006 - Carmel Valley Ranch is seeking to convert its 144 hotel suites to individually-owned units.

Under the proposed plan, the mid-valley resort would sell its units to private buyers, but would continue to be operated by Luxury Resorts as a hotel.

Ranch manager Joseph Violi said the change to a "condo-hotel" is only procedural, will not include any new construction and will have no impact outside of the ranch's boundaries.

"We're staying within the footprint (of the present layout)," said Violi. "We're not expanding the facilities or anything like that. It's not a timeshare. You actually own (the unit). You can stay there when you want, and when you're not there we rent it to someone else."

Given the go-ahead from the county planning department, individual ownerships would have no impact on traffic, according to a report prepared by Higgins and Associates of San Jose. Water use also would not be affected.

Occupancy of the units is not expected to change significantly, if at all. Second-homeowners -- the likely buyers of the units -- spend an average of 52 days a year in their Carmel or Carmel Valley homes, said Violi.

Luis Osorio, the county planner overseeing the proposal, said that he has received letters from concerned Carmel Valley residents who fear that the proposed conversion is a veiled timeshare project.

"Someone may argue that (this is a way around development rules)," said Osorio. "They are not timeshares by definition of the county's zoning code."

Water fixtures, such as toilets, will be upgraded and some remodeling inside the units is planned, but no major reconstruction to the suites will take place.

The 144 luxurious suites range from 650 to 1200 square feet. The largest units have two bedrooms, two bathrooms and outdoor Jacuzzis.

Carmel Valley Ranch has been undergoing a makeover since the New York-based Blackstone Group bought it more than a year ago. The golf course has been shut down as its drainage system is redone. The course is also being reshaped in some spots and reseeded.

"With new ownership, we are infusing new capital to keep the ranch a viable resort destination in Carmel Valley," said Violi.

Laith Agha can be reached at 646-4358 or lagha@montereyherald.com.

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Copyright (c) 2006, The Monterey County Herald, Calif.

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