|By Sukhjit Purewal, The Monterey County Herald, Calif.|
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Sep. 9, 2004 - Seaside's Planning Commissioners approved the pivotal resort hotel project on the Bayonet and Black Horse golf courses Wednesday, with a handful of suggested changes they said would make the project appear friendlier and more aesthetically pleasing.
Planning commissioners recommended the City Council approve the project and certify the environmental impact report when it takes up the hotel project at its Oct. 7 meeting.
At that meeting, the development team of Tucson, Ariz.-based Seaside Resort Development will also reveal which national hotel chain it is working with.
Before approving the project, the commission did express concerns over traffic, potable water, the inclusion of a gated community and the stone being used on the facade of the hotel.
The six-story, 330-room hotel would sit on 84 acres of the 375-acre golf courses. The project will include 170 timeshare units, 125 gated houses and reconstruction of the city-owned clubhouse.
An additional 100 affordable and work force residential units would be built near the SunBay Suites and Apartments to comply with the city's affordable-housing requirement. The site for the affordable units, 4 acres of the SunBay site, is owned by Donald Diamond and Donald Pitt, the principals of Seaside Resort Development and previous owners of SunBay.
Community Development Director Lou Dell'Angela said 160 acre-feet of water have been set aside for the hotel project.
And while the commissioners seemed satisfied with the project on the whole, they did raise some flags for the City Council to consider before giving the project final approval.
Commission Chairman Paul Mugan urged the developers to consider using genuine stone rather than a faux stone as the plan proposes.
"This is a showcase development that truly represents a quality opportunity for the city of Seaside," Mugan said.
Commissioner Jackie Craghead wanted reassurances the hotel would be "elegant." Craghead seemed satisfied with the round of positive nods from the applicants and slew of consultants in attendance.
Commissioners Alicia Meredith and Wendell Montes said they weren't convinced the project should include a gated community. They expressed concerns a gate would create a sense of a closed-off community and suggested using pillars to mark the community boundaries instead.
"Put a sign up that says private road and not gate the area," Meredith suggested.
Montes raised concerns about traffic along Coe Avenue during the construction process. However, a plan hasn't been developed yet to address that weighty concern, according to Larry Seeman, the city's project consultant.
Montes also advised the City Council approve the project with the condition the project use nonpotable water for irrigation purposes.
This was the third time the planning commission had taken up the resort hotel. They'd visited the site at an earlier date and taken public comment during an Aug. 25 meeting.
Seaside has staked a lot on the project, having invested $1 million to acquire Bayonet and Black Horse from the Army in 1996. BSL Golf Inc., operators of the golf courses, provided the city $11 million for their purchase.
BSL Golf pays the city $100,000 annually in lease payments. Past and current leaders contend the real value of the golf courses will be the taxes generated by the resort hotel.
Negotiations with Seaside Resort Development came to a sticky halt last year because of lawsuit filed by developer Danny Bakewell Sr. Bakewell, of Southern California, partnered with KB Home in developing Seaside Highlands.
He had accused BSL Golf of colluding with Seaside Resort Development to cheat him out of an opportunity to develop a hotel. In his 2002 lawsuit, Bakewell had alleged fraud and intentional and negligent interference with contract.
The case was settled out of court in March and no details were released. However, evidence unearthed during the course of the legal proceedings suggested a covert agreement did exist between the two accused parties.
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