|By Deepa Bharath, The Orange County
Register, Santa Ana, Calif.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
June 15, 2011--GARDEN GROVE -- A plan for three new hotels, including an upscale Harbor Boulevard resort hotel, that will displace several homes and business got the blessing of City Council members, who voted unanimously in favor of the project.
Council Chambers was packed Tuesday night with concerned residents from the Harbor Boulevard-Twintree Lane area. Some of them will be relocated to make way for three hotels, one of them a 19-story, 400-room resort hotel with large conference areas, restaurants, retail and a resort pool. Others said they will suffer from the increased traffic, noise, parking problems and lack of privacy these hotels will bring.
The 5-0 vote sealed the city's agreement with developer Land Design Inc. and approved a $497,000 relocation plan for the residents and businesses including Joe's Italian Ice, which will have to move.
The city has been working with Land Design for the last four years to assemble property on Harbor Boulevard to facilitate this project, said Greg Blodgett, senior economic development project manager for the city. Just a stone's throw away from the intersection of Harbor and Twintree is a cluster of nine hotels, which officials say, rakes in close to $13 million a year in taxes for the city.
Blodgett said the plan for the 5-acre site includes one large, upscale hotel along the lines of a Westin and two smaller limited service hotels. The hotels will have a 30,000-square-foot ballroom, 10,000 square feet of dining space and a luxury resort pool.
"We're trying to attract restaurants such as the Yard House, Maggiano's or Claim Jumper in this area," he said.
The anticipated tax revenue for the city from the large hotel just in the first year is $2.2 million, Blodgett said. The other two hotels are expected to generate $750,000 each in the first year, he said.
Resident Dena Cook said the hotels will pose a safety problem for children walking to and from schools in the area in addition to a host of other headaches for neighbors.
"This was an interior residential area and with this project, it will no longer be that," she said. "There will be a 19-story building blocking sunlight for all of us. More revenue for the city sounds great, but it doesn't work for us practically in our lives. The city should consider that."
Lack of privacy was a major concern for Richard Ableser, who lives on Choisser Road.
"The 19-story building completely ruins our privacy," he said. "They can look straight down to my yard."
Resident Peggy Bergin said she worries that the newer hotels are going to put the older ones down the street out of business. Another neighbor, Barbara Dearing, said she is concerned about what her home will now be worth.
"These hotels mean a further decrease of property values for the homes in the shadow of the hotel giants," she said.
There were some residents who supported the project saying that it will not only improve Garden Grove's image, but bring in much-needed jobs and economic growth to the area.
"Garden Grove needs a hotel like this," said April Colick. "It will give the city a new look and enhance the community."
Brianne Cutlier, a longtime resident of the neighborhood, said hotels do bring in valuable tax revenue for the city.
"I support the project," she said. "A hotel of this size will bring in jobs."
Matthew Reid, president and CEO of Land Design, assured residents that he will adopt a Garden Grove First program by hiring local contractors during the construction phase and using local labor for the hotel's employment needs. The hotels together are expected to generate between 700 and 1,000 jobs, he said.
Reid also proposed building a pedestrian bridge across Harbor Boulevard for the safety of children crossing the street to get to school.
On Tuesday, the city also unanimously voted to approve an amended a $1 million relocation plan for the 39 residents of Travel Country RV Park, who have been fighting the city for the last two years in court citing an inadequate plan. They will soon have to make away for a 600-room water park resort hotel, expected to break ground early next year. City officials have said they will get their 90-day notice to vacate by the end of this month.
Residents there need assurance that they will have a "safe, habitable and affordable home to move to," said Remy De La Peza, an attorney with the Public Council Law Center.
"We will ask the court for relief to keep those families safe and secure," she told council members.
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Copyright (c) 2011, The Orange County Register, Santa Ana, Calif.
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