Monday, October 20, 2008

Citizens group appeals Miramar approval


Just weeks after developer Rick Caruso’s plans to renovate the Miramar Hotel received the green light from the Montecito Planning Association, the nonprofit Citizens Planning Association announced it will appeal that approval.
Officials from the land-use planning and environmental protection organization allege that county planners made a series of improper conclusions about the project in a wide array of areas, including flood impacts, water use, sewer capacity, stormwater runoff, traffic, greenhouse gas emissions and historic preservation.

“With all due respect to the efforts of the Montecito Planning Commission, a number of significant deficiencies have not been addressed even though we repeatedly brought them to the county’s attention,” Ross Campbell, an attorney representing CPA, said in a prepared statement. “Given the scope of those outstanding concerns, CPA was left with no choice but to appeal.”
Caruso’s vice president of government relations, Matt Middlebrook, said that although he has yet to see the appeal itself and could not comment on specifics, there are few, if any, issues involving the proposed 192-room renovation that haven’t already gone under the microscope.
In particular, he cited four lengthy hearings before the Montecito Planning Commission that delved into aspects of the project such as building height, water availability and flood studies.
“We are confident that the county and we have been through every issue very thoroughly,” Middlebrook said. “…All of these issues have been covered, and many at great length.”
CPA officials pointed specifically to the areas of water availability and flood protections as examples of when city planners used inaccurate information.
“Instead of giving proper attention to these concerns and following the mandate of [California Environmental Quality Act] to provide accurate information regarding the project’s environmental impacts and a good-faith effort at full public disclosure, the Montecito Planning Commission approved the project,” CPA’s executive director Naomi Kovacs said in a news release.
The Miramar, a cottage-style hotel that has changed hands three times since 2000, currently sits shuttered along the Montecito beachfront and has become what some in the community have termed an eyesore.
While supporters may criticize CPA for holding up the process, Kovacs said the purpose of the appeal is not to delay the project, but to ensure environmental and safety concerns are addressed.
“While the site is currently blighted, we can’t lose sight of the fact that development needs to adhere to our county’s adopted community plans, does not overextend our resources and is the process of growing better, not just growing in ways that developers themselves desire,” she said in the release.
CPA officials expect the County Board of Supervisors will hear the appeal in December.

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