|By Barbara Henry, North County Times, Escondido, Calif.|
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Oct. 13, 2004 - CARLSBAD, Calif. -- It took more than decade of studies and architectural designs, but Carlsbad will get a large resort complex next to Legoland's only U.S. theme park. "It's hard to believe it's been 11 years," Councilman Matt Hall said Tuesday night as the council reviewed the latest proposal for the site. "I remember when we said we were going to have a Legoland hotel in five years."
After extensively questioning the proposed resort's developers, the council unanimously voted to support Grand Pacific Resort Inc.'s plan to build 350 hotel rooms, 350 time-share units, two restaurants, four pools, tennis courts and conference rooms on a 50-acre site between Cannon Road and Hidden Valley Road.
"What is before us tonight is an excellent effort," Councilwoman Ramona Finnila said after she concluded her list of questions on the project.
Finnila had warned the applicants before she began that she was going to keep them busy. In fact, council members asked more questions than the city's planning commissioners did when they voted to approve the plans in September. Finnila's questions went to the details of the project: Why, she asked, was a patio area next to the conference rooms so small? Where will the public viewing areas be? How many units will be nonsmoking?
Pointing to elements on the architectural drawings, Tim Stripe, Grand Pacific's co-president, told her the patio was near other outdoor spaces, the public viewing areas included one site at the highest point on the property and none of the units will allow smoking.
Council members said they also had concerns because the project was moving separately from a initial plan that linked its development to a lot next door. The adjoining lot was to contain seven holes of a nine-hole golf course, but plans for that have stalled and the property is now owned by a different company, Grand Pacific representatives said.
"(The resort plan) doesn't preclude the golf course being built, it just doesn't fit in with what we're trying to do today," Stripe said.
The $150 million, Mediterranean-style resort complex will become Carlsbad's third large-scale resort. Carlsbad already is home to the 329-room Four Seasons Aviara Resort and the 478-room La Costa Resort and Spa. Those properties are considered "upscale luxury" lodgings, and Grand Pacific's proposed resort is aiming for a market that's a notch below that.
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, company officials have said.
Construction is slated to begin in May or June, and it will take five to six years for all the structures to be completed, Stripe said.
A series of five speakers praised the project Tuesday night, saying it will bring jobs, tourists and a much-needed hotel in the upper-middle price range.
"There's a niche right below a high-end hotel and I believe this project fits perfectly into that," said Frankie Laney of the Carlsbad Convention and Visitors Bureau.
The night's final public speaker -- Socorro Anderson, a businesswoman who's assisting with city council candidate Ofie Escobedo's campaign -- said she opposed the project because of the traffic it will bring.
"(Residents) are saying enough is enough, when is the city going to stop building?" she said.
Council members said they wanted to know why she was opposing the project now when she had supported it at the planning commission meeting. Anderson said the council's minutes of the meeting were wrong and she hadn't supported it.
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