|By Larry Parsons, The Monterey County Herald, Calif.
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Oct. 11, 2005 - Plans to renovate and expand the 81-year-old Carmel River Inn just south of Carmel are being embraced by neighboring residents, project officials said Monday.
The project is scheduled to be heard at 10 a.m. Wednesday by Monterey County planning commissioners at their meeting in Salinas.
The proposal calls for increasing the number of guest units from 43 to 69, renovating 23 existing cottages and remodeling the main building.
"The applicant has been out there working with the residents," said project planner Jeff Main.
The Carmel Area Land Use Advisory Committee recommended approval of three project phases on separate majority votes, including two 6-0 votes. Concerns about design, potential flood impacts and local traffic patterns were worked out with neighbors, project architect Paul Davis said.
"We've had several meetings and done some shifting of units and proposed some landscaping screens so we don't have any windows that look into residential areas," Davis said.
"There hasn't been any major opposition," he said. "Neighbors had some concerns, of course, and we have tried to work with them."
The inn sits on 10 acres just west of Highway 1 on the north side of the Carmel River. Many of the guest cottages were first built in 1924 when the lodging area was billed as the gateway to Big Sur. Back then it was called the El Rio Motor Court.
The existing cottages comprise "one of the few remaining" clusters of early motor-court units in the state, Davis said.
"We are going to renovate the existing cabins and keep them as they are," he said. One would be moved to avoid having to tear it down, and the rest would be designated a historic district.
Forty new guest units are proposed for five, two-story buildings with ground-floor parking. The new buildings will have the same Craftsman-style architecture as the existing buildings, Davis said.
Construction could get started next spring, barring delays, he said.
Two hotel companies, Moonstone Hotel Properties of Cambria and InvestWest Financial of Santa Barbara, bought the inn in November 2003. At the time, the new owners said they planned $1 million worth of renovations.
Moonstone also owns the Monterey Hotel on Alvarado Street,
where expansion plans are in the works for shops, low-cost apartments
and more hotel rooms.
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