Plan for Grover Beach lodge back on track after appeals

Glenda Charrette, left, and Lee Ashworth groom their horses in the equestrian staging area in Grover Beach in March 2014. They worry that a new hotel would not be compatible.
Glenda Charrette, left, and Lee Ashworth groom their horses in the equestrian staging area in Grover Beach in March 2014. They worry that a new hotel would not be compatible. dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

After two appeals caused several months of delay, plans for the Grover Beach Lodge and Conference Center are once again moving ahead.

The California Coastal Commission recently found the appeals did not raise any substantial issues that would justify holding a hearing on the project. The commission’s unanimous decision allows the project to proceed, Grover Beach Mayor Debbie Peterson said.

Barring any other challenge, Peterson anticipates construction could start in about a year on the 150-room hotel and 11,000-square-foot conference center on about 13 acres of state-owned land at Highway 1 and West Grand Avenue.

City officials hope the project, envisioned since 1982, will bring more visitors, revenue and economic development to Grover Beach. It is a joint project between the city, State Parks and San Diego-based Pacifica Companies.

Pacifica Companies still has to draw up final plans and the city has to figure out financing for several public improvements it has agreed to make, including an equestrian staging area, a new putting green, street upgrades and the conference center.

However, the plan has concerned equestrians and off-highway vehicle users, who have long used part of the project area to unload their horses and maneuver their trucks and trailers.

“We worked really, really hard … to work with the equestrians and make sure that they still do have access,” Peterson said.

The lodge project includes about 10,000 square feet for recreational vehicles and equestrian use. In addition, city staff has been working with the county to create an alternate area for them to stage and park near the beach in Oceano.

Two appeals were filed after the Grover Beach City Council approved a permit for the lodge project April 7.

Arroyo Grande resident Deah Rudd argued the project would limit beach access, wouldn’t blend into the natural setting and would degrade the ocean view.

“With no safe and adequate place to stage, equestrians will have to leave and will quit using the park,” she wrote.

The other appeal was filed by Friends of Oceano Dunes, a not-for-profit corporation representing about 28,000 members. The group argued the project will limit beach access, cause increased traffic and result in the removal or relocation of recreational facilities — including an RV dump station, which is being moved.

The group also argued that a large portion of the project site is subject to an implied dedication because it has been used as an informal staging area since the 1960s.

Dan Carl, the commission’s Central Coast District deputy director, said there can’t be an implied dedication of land owned by the state, and the appellant didn’t prove there was five years of uninterrupted use as early as 1966, he said.

Before State Parks bought the land in 1971, there apparently was a golf driving range in the area, he said.

An attorney for the group, Thomas D. Roth in San Francisco, declined to comment Monday when asked what future action, including litigation, the group might pursue.

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