Tuesday, October 13 , 2015, 9:50 am | Fair 81º

Miramar Hotel Developer Calls on County to Settle Tax Deal

Rick Caruso says bed-tax rebates under an incentive program are crucial to moving ahead with the $170 million project in Montecito

Developer Rick Caruso said Wednesday that Santa Barbara County needs to approve a tax-rebate deal so he can move forward with his Miramar Hotel project in Montecito. With him is First District Supervisor Salud Carbajal.
Developer Rick Caruso said Wednesday that Santa Barbara County needs to approve a tax-rebate deal so he can move forward with his Miramar Hotel project in Montecito. With him is First District Supervisor Salud Carbajal.  (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk photo)

By Lara Cooper, Noozhawk Staff Writer | @laraanncooper |

Surrounded by a now-vacant expanse of property overlooking Miramar Beach and the Pacific Ocean, developer Rick Caruso spoke to the media Wednesday about the plans he hopes will materialize for the Miramar Hotel.

Caruso has been actively seeking the $170 million in financing needed to build the 182-room hotel, and Wednesday’s news conference served as a reminder that Santa Barbara County must come to a deal with his company in order to move forward.

Last June, the Board of Supervisors approved the Hotel Incentive Program ordinance, which would allow new hotels with a value of $50 million or more to get transient-occupancy-tax rebates.

But lawyers for Caruso as well as those for the county have yet to come to an agreement on the terms, and not having a deal would change the economics of the project “significantly,” he said.

The deal would give lenders the added assurance of cash flow, and Caruso said he sees the issue as “solvable.”

First District Supervisor Salud Carbajal noted that the deteriorating cottages on the property were demolished late last year, and the site has been cleaned up significantly.

He also said that the county has granted the permits, accomplishing both goals he had after being re-elected last fall.

Carbajal said the weak economy played into the decision to pursue the transient-occupancy tax deal last summer, adding that the Miramar, when built, would provide the county $130 million in revenue over the life of the deal.

“That can buy a lot of police officers and fire trucks and provide mental health,” he said.

As plans for the Miramar continue to lie dormant, a host of other hotels in the area have announced they’ll be expanding or reopening on the South Coast, with one of the most notable being the El Encanto Hotel.

“None of those hotels have that,” said Caruso, gesturing to the view of the Pacific Ocean.

The Montecito Association’s Richard Nordlund was also on hand, and said “we expect to have a fabulous development.”

When pressed by reporters about the timeline of the project, Caruso said his goal is to open the hotel’s doors in 2016.

Assuming the tax issue is resolved quickly, Caruso said, he’d like to break ground next year.

“I want to start enjoying this place,” he said.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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» on 01.24.13 @ 09:02 AM

how many years has this been going on? no wonder businesses are contemplating a move away from CA.

» on 01.24.13 @ 11:12 AM

luxury properties do not need tax rebates from the bed tax. all they have to do is add the 40 ti 100 dollars per night that they would get in the rebate to their room rate.

their clientele can afford it.

» on 01.24.13 @ 11:33 AM

I am pretty sick of these clown developers extorting concessions in order to do what they knew full well were their responsibilites when they bought the property in the first place.

» on 01.24.13 @ 11:59 AM

Agree with BUFF. No give-away to developers. None of the other hotels Caruso referred to, those without oceanside property views, have been given a tax break.

If Carbajal feels strongly in favor of Caruso, let him propose a property tax surcharge on all 93108 residences.

» on 01.24.13 @ 01:03 PM

Of course let’s not give them a break on the occupancy tax.  We don’t need all the construction jobs….plumbers, carpenters, electricians, road crews and the revenue they create with a job!  Of course we don’t need the revenue at all our stores, restaurants and businesses that will benefit from having these tourists come to our community.  Let’s just leave it as is…a rat infested weed growing lot, because after all that benefits everyone!

» on 01.24.13 @ 01:10 PM

WTF? Caruso “calls on County” in what is essentially an extortion press conference….are you kidding me? Does he really think Santa Barbara people are still starry eyed for his BS? Either build the f-in project that was fast tracked because of your bullying, or sell the property. But please don’t continue to insult us with your slick arm-twisting

» on 01.24.13 @ 03:46 PM

No! No special deals for builders! Why should Caruso get a break, when us average homeowners do not?

No special deals!

» on 01.24.13 @ 06:38 PM

It was obvious to most (if not all) ‘bidders’ on the property that Caruso was overpaying for the Miramar. 
So Caruso overpaid and now wants a government bail out?  This does seem like a decision that voters should have a say in.

» on 01.24.13 @ 07:51 PM

Can someone in our beloved private sector’s free markets explain clearly why a
self-proclaimed “billionaire” developer requires public subsidies for the indefinite (or infinite) future in order to get him to deliver the project he applied to build?

This is the guy who said he could buy the Dodgers, and said he was weighing
running to be mayor of LA.

The money he’d be sucking out of the County is money that could otherwise be
used to backfill every necessary public service we’ve had to cut back on these last five or six years.

Why should local government give scarce revenue to this fast-talking wheeler-dealer?

If he wants to build the hotel he asked for, and got approved, let him. If he
doesn’t, let him sell his approved project to someone else, who will build it.

Why does this guy need subsidies? It took us years just to get him to clean up,
and knock down, the rat-hole he’d allowed the Miramar to deteriorate into.

» on 01.24.13 @ 11:33 PM

Publius- it is easy .. Caruso knows the county really wants the hotel built. The county will get sales tax income and generate jobs and revenue spent in local stores/restaurants, generating even more tax revenue.  What will the county be willing to pay for that?
Too bad we did not make nice with Ty Warner when he owned the Miramar- he has always been willing to invested much more in his properties than makes economic sense.

Caruso has a lot of money and wants a lot more.
Personally I would take the position of the US government and not negotiate with hostage takers, as it opens the door for a flood.

Salud is a different story- a neophyte that does not know how to play chess.

» on 01.25.13 @ 01:31 PM

@publius et al:  what you miss is that the Miramar will provide net INCREASE in taxes even with the TOT rebate, hardly “sucking money away”.  Not to mention create jobs.  And the TOT rebate is for 15 years, not indefinitely.  The County has already agreed; what Caruso wants is assurance that they don’t default on their agreement - quite a reasonable request, IMO. If he just lets the land sit there, the County is the loser.

» on 01.25.13 @ 06:59 PM

A net increase in sales tax, and a whole lot of low paid workers that can not afford to live in SB, creating a demand for even more affordable housing (and please do not tell me that jobs will only be given to people already living here—what good does it do when a house cleaner leaves the Fess to work a the Miramar and the Fess has to fill the spot from Ventura).
And what about all the other hotels that are already here? Do they get 15 years of keeping their TOT?  What is fair about that? The existing hotels suffered through the great recession with no relief.
The taxpayers of SB will be subsidizing the Miramar.

» on 01.25.13 @ 10:41 PM

Well, the good objectionista of SB County delayed construction of this property for years, first by driving Ty Warner away, then by hounding Caruso into reducing the size of his hotel to get it permitted.  That, of course, drove a reduction in his revenue assumptions which, I suspect, led him to ask for the rebate.  One might reasonably say that the good citizens of SB County are now paying the price for years of obstructionism, while as usual accepting no responsibility and blaming the “greedydeveloper”.  Give it a rest.

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