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Goleta Council Agrees to Review Newest Plans for Rincon Palms Hotel Project

Proposal calling for a larger hotel and conference center raises some concerns

The Goleta City Council voted 3-2 on Tuesday for staff to review proposed changes to plans for a hotel on one of the city’s busiest intersections.

Rincon Palms, proposed by Cortona Opportunities LLC, may become bigger than initially designed.

In its third iteration, the project in its last two versions called for a smaller hotel and a restaurant that would take advantage of its location at the corner of Storke Road and Hollister Avenue. Currently, the developer has an approved project out of the original plans that calls for a 112-room, 59,000-square-foot, three-story hotel and a 6,000-square-foot restaurant, and amenities that include a pool, spa and fitness rooms.

The most recently proposed project outlines a 166-room, 104,025-square-foot hotel and conference center that includes a full-service restaurant.

A company representative said a combination of a changing economy and a recent study on the demand for hotel rooms in the city was the driving factor behind the changes.

“We could not have been more caught up in the economic storm that has beset our economy over the last three years,” said Kip Bradley of Cortona Opportunities. The company, however, has improved its fortunes, he said, and has the necessary financing for the project.

The application for the new proposal is not yet complete.

The City Council’s vote opens up negotiations on the project’s development agreement, which includes some potential areas of contention, including a footprint that exceeds the standards for hotels in the city, the notion that the plans are seen more as new plans than a revision to the existing ones, environmental considerations due to the changes to the project, and a request for $2 million from the city to abate project costs arising from the need to adjust the lot line and demolish 10,000 square feet of a building that Cortona owns just north of the Rincon Palms site in order to accommodate the new conference rooms.

“We’re both going to have to work very hard to make this work,” said Councilman Ed Easton, who laid out some concerns over the specifics of the project, though he voted for its initiation.

Mayor Margaret Connell was more skeptical, expressing worries that the new version might have some negative impacts on other hotels to be built in the area, as well as traffic concerns.

“I have a lot of problems with what you’re asking,” she said.

City staff will consider the plans during the next several weeks with what Planning and Environmental Services Director Steve Chase called “a bundle of workarounds” to potential obstacles, before the City Council decides again on whether to proceed on the newest hotel plans.

Noozhawk contributing writer Sonia Fernandez can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk or @NoozhawkNews.

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