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Residents for and against the Carlsbad Boat Club and Resort packed City Hall on Wednesday as the planning commission denied the project. The owners of club said they will appeal the decision to the City Council. Photo by Steve Puterski
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Commission sinks idea for Carlsbad boat club project

CARLSBAD — A battle was won, but the war is not over yet.

The Carlsbad Planning Commission denied permit requests for the Carlsbad Boat Club and Resort’s proposal on Wednesday for 20 timeshare units on the north shore of Agua Hedionda Lagoon.

Over nearly four hours, the commissioners heard a staff presentation and testimony from those supporting and opposing the project in addition to their own comments.

In the end, though, five commissioners said they did not see the project being compatible with the neighborhood along Adams Street. In addition, many noted the intensity, traffic, safety and parking concerns from potential guests and possible visitors at the location.

“This is a difficult project,” said Commissioner Marty Montgomery, who voted to deny the permits. “There are a lot of impacts and it’s not compatible.”

Commissioners Kerry Siekmann and Neil Black were in favor of the project, stating the owners jumped through every hoop asked by the city to mitigate any issues.

“The owners have made huge changes,” Siekmann said. “Their hands are so tied with the property. I like timeshares instead of a hotel because, I believe, they respect the neighborhood.”

The owner of the club, Jim Courtney, said he will appeal the decision to the City Council.

Many residents opposing the project noted a similar plan was defeated in 2008. They also detailed how the project, although it was modified from 25 units in 2008 to 20 currently, only cut down the square footage by 76.

But the crux of the issue, according to Bill Hoffman, whose firm represents Courtney and co-owner Mike Pfanuich, who have owned the property since the mid 1980s, is zoning. The California Coastal Commission has to approve a Coastal Permit and holds the keys for approval for any project, and will not allow for it to be rezoned to residential, a statement acknowledged by all sides.

Hoffman said over at least five meetings with Coastal Commission staff they stood firm that any project must be Visitor Commerical. He said the boat club falls under the Coastal Commission’s requirements and presents the least impacts of any other option.

Hoffman gave a detailed presentation of how the project meets every city code and standard as well as the owners going along with any other conditions set forth by the commission.

Hoffman also showed comparisons of neighboring homes including an 8,700-square-foot residence and how those frontages compared to renderings are similar. He also said the club’s density would be lower than Bristol Cove, which sits several hundred yards away.

As for traffic, Hoffman said the only 200 trips per day was calculated, which is under the 500 trips per day minimum required by the city to conduct a formal study.

“It seems to us this is not a parking issue,” he said. “This has much less impactful use than a hotel.”

Several opponents, including land use attorney Julie Hamilton of San Diego, who was hired by residents, said a boutique hotel or restaurant would be acceptable to residents.

Residents against the project also voiced concerns over boat traffic, impacts to the lagoon, its look, parking and public access.

“They can use and make a profit, but this isn’t the project,” Hamilton said. “Coastal staff doesn’t like this project.”

Courtney, though, offered to not allow any timeshare residents or renters to hauling boats, limit public boats to six — by reservation only — and keep two boats on the property for resident and guest use.

As for parking, Hoffman said eight additional spaces were included to ease concerns and public access would be granted on the east side of the property.

Courtney, in an interview last week, admitted the project was stuck “between a rock and a hard place.”

Some opponents said a restaurant would be a better alternative, even though Hoffman and Courtney detailed how those efforts over the past 30 years have failed. Numerous establishments came on to the property, but struggled to flourish.

Supporters, though, said property rights are an important component as the owners have a right to develop as they see fit and to make money from their investment.