Grover makes room for lodge

Grover Beach leaders have tentatively approved a project they hope will serve as a catalyst for future growth and economic development in the city.

Plans for a Grover Beach Lodge and Conference Center will now move to the California Coastal Commission for its consideration.

If approved there, the Grover Beach City Council could take final action as soon as next spring, Mayor John Shoals said.

He hopes the development could open by spring 2014.

The 13-acre project includes a 150-room hotel, an approximately 11,000-square-foot conference center, a restaurant, improvements to restrooms, picnic areas and a new putting green.

“I believe that this would be a flagship type of project for our town,” Councilwoman Karen Bright said during a meeting Monday, when the council voted 4-1 to approve the project. Councilwoman Phyllis Molnar dissented, expressing concern about how much the project could potentially cost the city.

The plans have been in the works since the early 1980s, when Grover Beach and California State Parks starting discussing building a lodge facility within the city on state-owned land at West Grand Avenue and Highway 1.

San Diego-based Pacifica Companies was selected in 2008 to design, construct and eventually oversee the lodge and conference center’s operation.

At the end of a 50-year concession contract — which is valid starting the first day of operation — the state would control the property.

The Pismo State Beach Golf Course and Fins Restaurant would remain. Parking for equestrian uses is proposed to be moved to the south side of West Grand Avenue, next to the existing dune access trails.

The city plans to fund a portion of the project’s estimated $24.5 million construction cost. The overall project, with design, environmental and other costs included, is expected to cost $35.4 million, said Allison Rolfe, a project manager for Pacifica.

The city expects to pay about $6 million to $7 million for public improvements including the equestrian staging area, a new putting green, street upgrades, putting some utility lines underground and the conference center.

The city plans to use some money from specific utility and water funds to cover up to $1.5 million of the cost, and the rest would be covered by Pacifica and repaid to the company with bed tax, sales tax and other revenues from the lodge after it opens.

Molnar was concerned about committing city money before knowing whether the project will be a success.

City Manager Bob Perrault estimated the project could bring at least $550,000 in revenues to the city’s general fund after the reimbursement to Pacifica is complete.