Wednesday, July 27 , 2016, 5:05 pm | Fair 74º

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Local News

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

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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