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Carlsbad moves forward on Ponto

CARLSBAD — After years of planning and several hurdles, plans for the development of the Ponto region are moving forward.
City Council approved the first hotel within the Ponto Beachfront Village Vision Plan at the July 21 meeting. The three-story, 215-room Hilton Carlsbad Beach Resort and Spa, will be just down the road from the Hilton Garden Inn of Carlsbad, and will sit just south of Ponto Drive and east of Carlsbad Boulevard.
With 10,385 square feet of conference space, a large spa and an ocean view restaurant, the project will be something residents and visitors alike can both enjoy, hotel developers said.
The hotel is proposed to be built on eight acres of land near the Hanover Beach Colony. Earlier concerns by homeowners were addressed by the developers and City Council determined the project was within the scope of the previously certified environmental impact report, and voted to approve the plans.
Bill Hofman from Hofman Planning and Engineering, a consultant for the project, said some changes were made to the initial plans.
“There were concerns about noise and that the lobby was too close to the (Hanover Beach Colony) area,” Hofman said. “We did a noise study and it showed that there wasn’t much noise, but we did a redesign to increase the landscaping and berm.”
As a result, Hofman said, most homeowners said they were satisfied with the changes. The developer for the project, Bill Canepa of Wave Crest Resorts, said the style of architecture will be craftsman style, and said he tried to incorporate changes he felt the public wanted to the plan, such as an ocean view restaurant.
The hotel is on one of five properties of the Ponto Beachfront Village Vision Plan, which calls for three hotels, two neighborhoods, mixed-use development and parking garages to be developed on land east of Carlsbad Boulevard and south of Ponto Drive, north of the Batiquitos Lagoon. A 10- to 12-foot multi-use path will run the length of the Ponto Beachfront Village.
Plans for the development of the area on the city’s Web site outline additional “public and community amenities” included within the project. Plans could include a pedestrian underpass to run under Carlsbad Boulevard to the state beach campground. A park could also be built on the west side of Carlsbad Boulevard, with a picnic table and benches, a nature and arts center, and or a wetland interpretive park.
“The vision plan is a goal,“ said Christer Westman, senior planner for the city of Carlsbad. “Part of the plan is to realign Carlsbad Boulevard to free up additional space on the west side.”
As more property is developed, Westman said, the increase in revenue will go into a redevelopment agency, as part of the South Carlsbad Coastal Redevelopment Area of the Carlsbad Local Coastal Program. The revenue will eventually pay for the realignment of the road. “Solely for the purpose of freeing up space on the west side,” he said.
Canepa said the hotel could be ready as early as next spring, ahead of the proposed two- to three-year development time frame planned for the area.
“As you know we’ve been working on this for about five years,” Hofman told the council. “We are very glad to be here for hopefully our final approvals.”
In May, the Planning Commission gave its approval. There has been little opposition to the project these days, a far cry from initial reaction to the plan several years ago, when a large number of residents came out to protest the development.
A lawsuit between the city of Carlsbad and neighboring Encinitas stalled the project while both sides debated who should be responsible for paying for improvements to La Costa Avenue to accommodate the increase in traffic along that road. Parts of the road are located within each city, but it was determined that the city of Carlsbad will be responsible for impacts from the majority of the development, located within the city of Carlsbad.
The environmental impact report, approved in 2008, outlined that the plan “may have the potential to impact the environment unless mitigation measures are applied to development in the areas of transportation, traffic, noise, biology, cultural resources and agriculture.
According to information put out by the city, “All individual development projects will require separate environmental review to determine their impacts.” The Ponto Beachfront Village Vision Plan only acts as a guideline for developers, and future developments will still have to go before City Council, they said.