An update from Caruso Affiliated:

"In March of this year we unveiled our proposed plan for the “new” Miramar Beach Resort and Bungalows based on community input received to that point. Since that time, we have been working closely with the Montecito community and County officials to further refine the plan, ensuring that the hotel, once built, would be a project that the residents could warmly embrace and would be proud to call their own. We are very appreciative of the community’s overwhelming support and the excellent effort put forward by County officials and staff.

Part of the plan included the relocation of a private road from the middle of the property to the eastern edge of the property. This road provided access to the beachfront cottages and was also an access easement for three beach houses located immediately to the east of the property. Relocating the road had a number of benefits: it created one contiguous parcel allowing for more open space and a better visitor experience; a more private road for the beachfront residents by way of separated uses for the road from the main hotel entrance; and a less flood prone road since the road would be elevated higher than its current level, which is below the flood plain.

Since the homeowners of the beachfront properties who have the easement must approve any plan that relocates the road, we have been working closely with them for the past few months to address any and all concerns they have raised with regard to the road’s proposed new location. Their concerns have primarily centered on the impact of the new road on Oak Creek, and whether the design of the new road would exacerbate existing flood problems during a heavy storm.

At their request, and at our expense, we commissioned an independent study by Penfield-Smith to study the issues they raised and conclusively determined that our project would have no impact on Oak Creek under flood conditions. County Flood Control has reviewed our findings and has agreed with them. The neighbors hired their own expert to review our studies, and they have given us no indication that their consultant has found fault with our studies.

Unfortunately, despite numerous meetings and attempts to find common ground, we have been unable to gain the approval of our neighbors to move the road. Although our experts concluded that our project would have no impact on Oak Creek under flood conditions, in the interest of being a good neighbor and to keep the project on schedule, we offered to donate $1 million to the neighbors, toward the widening of Oak Creek; to have our security guards notify the neighbors of any flood warnings; free hotel accommodations during floods; and free installation of drains on neighbors’ properties and other concessions.

To that end, and in the interest of avoiding even further delay, we have made the decision to modify and resubmit the application we have submitted to the County and redesign the project with the road in its current location.

We believe that though there will likely be significant delay in the project due to the redesign, the project, once modified, will have all the great attributes of the initial plan. We want to assure all of the community members who have been so supportive that we are pressing forward, and that we maintain our commitment to build a project that the community can support and feel proud to have as part of their neighborhood." – Caruso Affiliated

Miramar, Take Three

On September 10, Caruso Affiliated, owners of the Miramar property, heads back to the Montecito Board of Architectural Review for “further conceptual review” of the project.

Last week, story poles were constructed at the site. The County requires builders to use existing elevations for planning purposes, and the height and bulk of the proposed main building caused some eyebrows to rise. So, we asked Matt Middlebrook, V.P. of Government Relations for Caruso Affiliated, for an explanation. He assured us “the proposed project fits within the mass, bulk, and scale of the surrounding neighborhood,” and that the Caruso team has “limited the height of all buildings, as measured from proposed grade, to the height limits outlined in the county’s zoning restrictions.” Caruso is, Middlebrook said, requesting “some modification of those height restrictions” on at least four of the 35 proposed buildings, ranging from one foot to, in the case of the main building, as much as fifteen feet.

“In order to create a relatively level site,” Matt explained, “we have to raise the grade in a number of places… there is a significant depression in the section of the site where the main building is being placed,” he continued, “and by placing buildings at relatively flat grade across the entire site consistent with surrounding neighborhood’s existing grades, the main building ends up taller than the height limits.” He reiterated that “the heights of the buildings relative to the new finished grade are within the limits set by the County.”

Middlebrook says the plan is to take advantage of the depressed area under what will be the main building, “not by simply filling it in, but by placing two levels of parking under [it].” Caruso is required to construct the parking garage above the floodplain, and by using the already existing depression, they hope to satisfy the county’s height limitations.

“The reduction in surface parking,” Middlebrook suggested, “also reduces the quantity of and improves the quality of storm water run-off by creating the additional open space.” Anyone that lived here during our most recent deluge (there will be more in the future), will understand the desirability of reducing water accumulation along South Jameson; just ask the merchants along Santa Claus Lane.

To compensate for a higher ground level on the northeast section of the property, Caruso’s plan lowers the northwest section by a few feet. “The resulting effect is a lower profile of a two-story spa building relative to the existing grade in that location,” Middlebrook says.

The site will be open from 9 am to 1 pm on Monday, September 10. We encourage interested parties to visit, and then to attend the MBAR meeting at 123 East Anapamu, beginning at 3 pm.

Walk & Roll Wednesdays at Cold Spring School

Cold Spring School, in conjunction with Safe Routes to School committees, Montecito Union School, Montecito Association, County of Santa Barbara, and the Montecito Trails Association, has worked this summer to create safer paths to and from school. Starting Wednesday, September 5, Cold Spring School begins its “Walk & Roll” Wednesdays, encouraging kids and parents to walk and/or bike to school.

During this summer, Westmont helped clear a path from Cold Spring Road to La Paz Road. Volunteer crews cleared out poison oak, brush, and other material. According to Scott Craig, Westmont has “agreed to cut back vegetation encroaching on Cold Spring Road and help fund an off-duty officer to do surveillance to improve traffic safety around school areas.”

The committees for Safe Routes to School are asking for community participation to help clear a pathway five feet wide in front of properties. Many residents have already removed material for the pathway. For more information, or if you would like to help, please contact Salud Carbajal at 568-2186. We applaud this effort.