Designers of a 51-room boutique hotel in the Village of Arroyo Grande will head back to the drawing board after the city’s Planning Commission raised concerns Tuesday night that the architecture of the building didn’t fit with the style of the neighborhood.
“I support having a hotel in the Village,” Commissioner Lan George said at the meeting. “That being said, when you look at the architecture of it, although we are on the coast, the Village of Arroyo Grande is not a coastal village. We’re not Monterey, so having a Monterey coastal look, to me, isn’t at all in line with what the city and the Village Association is all about.”
NKT Commercial is proposing a 27,700-square-foot hotel at 325 E. Branch St. in Arroyo Grande, in a space previously set to become a grocery store. The building was designed to mimic coastal buildings throughout California, with features such as dark shutters and a sloped roof, something the commission overwhelmingly said was not appropriate for the 19th-century design of the majority of The Village.
The Planning Commission voted 3-1, with Commissioner Glenn Martin dissenting, to continue the hearing at a later date to give time for the project applicant to redesign the hotel to better fit its proposed surroundings. (Commissioner Terry Fowler Payne abstained from voting because she lives in the vicinity of the project.)
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The Planning Commission previously approved a 10,000-square-foot grocery store for the same spot in July 2012 that was expected to open the following summer.
That project fell through because of a lack of interest on the part of some market owners to commit to a market of that size, said Steven Puglisi of Steven Puglisi Architects Inc., the architecture firm in charge of the project.
“The general idea was, you need 25,000 square feet or you need a 7-11,” Puglisi said. “There’s no in-between.”
After failing to raise any interest from market owners, developer Nick Tompkins said he moved on to a hotel project.
“We’re looking at this as more of a boutique inn than a hotel,” he previously told The Tribune. “We hope that it will provide the visitors with families and local residents a place to stay and enjoy the amenities of the Village.”
Tompkins was not present at the meeting because of illness.
Most of the Arroyo Grande residents who spoke during public comment Tuesday night lamented the loss of the market plan.
“Do we need a hotel?” asked Carol Fulmer, who lives near the site. “I realize that we are trying to become a tourist town, but what is available to our residents who are aging in place? … I would like to see some consideration. I understand that if this hotel goes in, it closes the door on a market.”
In general, the commission was sympathetic to the public’s desire to have a grocery store in the Village but stressed that it just wasn’t viable.
“I would have preferred to see a marketplace come in here,” Martin said. “As much as I would have liked to see a marketplace come in here, this was just not destined to be.”
The hotel would feature slightly larger-than-average rooms to accommodate families and be more comfortable for visitors. It would have about 65 parking spaces spread across three parking lots throughout the property, one of which is shared with the neighboring Mason Bar and Robert’s Restaurant and Wine Bar.
The hotel could also include a swimming pool and adjacent spa, which prompted more skepticism from Arroyo Grande residents already concerned with water conservation in light of the ongoing drought.
“This gives the wrong message to our own residents about us really needing to conserve,” said Mike Hicks, who lives close to the project on Le Point Street. “It just doesn’t send the right message.”
The total anticipated water use for the hotel is about 1.7 million gallons per year with conservation measures, according to a water use analysis from Balance Green Consulting that was included in the project’s environmental impact report.