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Goleta Council Grants Conceptual Go-Ahead for Revised Rincon Palms Hotel Project

The move clears the way for the city manager to enter negotiations on a development agreement

Proposed plans for the Rincon Palms hotel project received the conceptual go-ahead Tuesday evening from the Goleta City Council.

While there is no hard application, the council’s nod allows the city manager to enter into negotiations with Cortona Opportunities LLC, the project’s developer, with the intention of entering into a development agreement.

“We feel strongly that we can give you an amazing hotel,” said Laurel Perez, the project’s planner.

The proposal calls for a 172-room hotel that concentrates on offering conference meeting space. Plans also include amenities such as a fitness center, a pool and whirlpool, an in-house restaurant and catering service.

Cortona Opportuities already has an approved Rincon Palms plan, which the council gave its thumbs-up to in 2008, but the ensuing economical turbulence of the past couple of years made it difficult to get off the ground. A recent market study on the need for hotels in the city limits indicated a need for conference and meeting space, and two weeks ago the project’s proponents suggested an alternative plan, one that drew concern from the City Council because it exceeded height and footprint regulations and requested a $2 million contribution from the city to allay the developer’s costs.

Tuesday’s plans took out both the rooftop structures that threatened the mountain views north of the city and the $2 million request to “allow other opportunities” for the city to participate financially, according to Perez. The hotel would also retain its Streamline Moderne architecture approved in 2008.

What the council members did look favorably upon were the plans for contiguous conference rooms, which could be added together or split apart to configure them to the needs of conference-goers. They also offered pinions on amenities that could be closer to the rooftop meeting space, the details of which would be ironed out with city planners.

In total, the development would take up 107,000 square feet of the vacant lot at the northeast corner of Storke Road and Hollister Avenue, the conference rooms moving the hotel closer to Storke Road on its eastern flank. The developers would also demolish a research and development office building north of the property to make more room for the hotel and its parking.

While the floor-to-area ratio — or the square footage of the hotel relative to the size of the entire property — exceeds the standard for hotels in the city, it’s likely, given that part of the hotel is subterranean and not visible from the street, and also the council’s favorable mood toward the proposal, that that element may be allowed.

What may still be an issue is traffic, Councilwoman Paula Perrotte noted. The Storke Road-Hollister Avenue intersection is one of the busiest in the city, she said, and with events the hotel may have, traffic flow may even be more impacted.

The issue, and several others, will be discussed between the city and developers in the coming weeks, as Cortona prepares its formal application.

Also, in a brief discussion Tuesday evening, the City Council approved an ordinance giving Ellwood Pipeline Inc., the franchise owner of an oil- and gas-transporting pipe, rights to a new, as-yet unbuilt Line 96 that would lead out of Goleta toward a processing facility.

Oil from Platform Holly, operated by oil company Venoco Inc., is currently piped to the Ellwood Onshore Facility, near the Bacara Resort & Spa. The original Line 96 takes the petroleum from the EOF east to the Ellwood Marine Terminal, located on rented UCSB property, where it is then loaded onto a barge that travels north or south to market.

The new Line 96 would transport the product away from the EOF toward an Exxon Mobil facility in Las Flores Canyon, bypassing the EMT and the barge.

The Goleta Planning Commission two weeks ago approved Venoco’s plans for the new oil transportation system. EFI agrees to abandon the exiting pipe in favor of the new one when it comes online.

“This is one step toward saying goodbye to the barge,” Goleta Mayor Margaret Connell said.

Noozhawk contributing writer Sonia Fernandez 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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