In an evening of impassioned dialogue both from the audience and the dais, the Goleta Planning Commission began deliberations on its first big project Monday night.

The proposal: an extended-stay hotel operated by Marriott Inc., located in the Hollister corridor, between South La Patera Lane and Robin Hill Road, at the old Applied Magnetics property. The applicants,  R.D. Olsen from Irvine and Russ Goodman from Sares-Regis Group propose to subdivide the lot currently occupied by a light industrial building to allow for the Marriott Residence Inn on the just-under four acres of unoccupied land on the parcel’s western side.

The proposed 99,146-square-foot, three-story hotel would have 140 suites, each equipped with their own kitchens, a pool in the center courtyard, and a total of 139 parking spaces, with an additional 30 spaces available to hotel users from the site of the light industrial building.

The project is supported by the local business community, which says the hotel will meet the needs of travelers coming through the Santa Barbara Airport, as well as visitors to UCSB. The conference rooms could also serve as meeting spaces for local businesses, and the hotel will provide up to 40 new jobs. All of the transient occupancy tax generated by the hotel — $610,000 in the first year, $800,000 by the fifth —  would go directly to the city of Goleta.

“We were aware of the demand by the community for facilities such as this,” said Goodman, representing Sares-Regis Group, which owns the parcel of land on which the hotel is to be built and several other tracts in the area.

The proposal did not go over well with local Chumash in the audience, however. The tribe considers the area a sacred place.

“We had a full community here,” said Freddie Romero, a Chumash tribal representative. “With the amount of development that’s taking place today, we’re constantly losing our archaeological resources, our cultural resources, the things that mean the most to us.”

According to archaeological reports associated with the project, there are a significant amount of Chumash remains and artifacts buried just below the surface at the proposed building site.  The area was once part of a Chumash community that existed before the valley was settled by plainsmen from the east, and is one of the last significant intact Chumash sites in the area.

Preservation of the artifacts by the builders, a requirement under state law, would involve capping the site with the cement foundation of the hotel, but not before pile-driving and other construction activities interfered with almost half of the remains at the location.

The issue of Chumash artifacts remains unresolved. The commission proposed a meet-and-confer session between representatives of the tribe, the city and the project proponents to seek a compromise.

As for the hotel, the project requires several changes to the Goleta General Plan, which is currently being revised and reviewed by the city.  Project proponents are asking for a deletion of the floor-area ratio limit, which will allow the building to exceed the footprint allowed in the current General Plan. Project supporters also are requesting the elimination of the maximum building height limit of 35 feet to allow for the project’s undulating roofline, which would reach 38 feet in places.

Other modifications put forward by the developers include decreased setbacks from Hollister Avenue and Robin Hill Road.

“It’s just too big,” said Commissioner Ed Easton, who suggested a smaller hotel would satisfy the guidelines without causing changes in the General Plan.

Hollister Center would also go through some modifications as a result of the Marriott project, with changes to its parking lot and landscaping.

Meanwhile, other commissioners had questions and concerns, such as the building’s height and proximity to the airport, parking, transit access, flexibility of rules and potential revisions, and the General Plan. While the discussion went late into the evening, the commission did not arrive at a conclusion and a recommendation for the City Council.

The commission will meet again May 12 to discuss the Marriott Extended-Stay Suites proposal.