Planning OKs longer stays
by Chris Wilson
A handful of North Blanche Street residents protested again
before the Ojai Planning Commission Wednesday but did little
to sway the opinion of the seven commissioners who voted unanimously
to approve a resolution reducing the minimum stay requirements
for the Emerald Iguana Inn.
The resolution approved unanimously by the commission now permits
the Emerald Iguana Inn to book guests for a minimum two-night
stay. A minimum four-night stay had been required.
Sheri Ann Cate, a nearby resident and local business owner, said
allowing the shorter stays presents a potentially dangerous situation.
She noted that she's observed that 95 percent of automotive traffic
going up Blanche Street is not heeding the stop signs. She also
noted that the Planning Commission's decisions have offended
her sense of fairness, especially by reducing the minimum night
stay for the Emerald Iguana.
"You're sending the message to developers to learn how to
work the system," Cate said. "the next thing you know
it will be a one-night stay minimum. A hotel does not belong
in a residential neighborhood."
Ironically, under protest from the Marc and Julia Whitman, a
neighbor of the Emerald Iguana, Jane Spiller, got approval to
build a second-story addition on her property that will overlook
the parking lot of the inn. The Whitmans opposed the project
because they said it was too massive for the property and the
bedroom window would be located just five feet from the parking
lot. However, commissioners approved the project unanimously
stating that trees and other vegetation screen the second-story
addition from the Whitman's property.
City Manager Dan Singer was present at the meeting to announce
that Interim Community Development Director Doug Hooper has taken
a job with the city of Agoura Hills. Hooper, whose last day with
Ojai was Thursday, was met with the praise and accolades of the
commission and City Councilwoman Rae Hanstad. A replacement has
been hired. Robert Casias will start Aug. 5 as the new Community
Development Director. Casias comes from Blythe, Calif., and brings
an impressive track record with him, according to the City Manager's
When development projects such as Los Arboles and the expansion
of the Ojai Valley Inn and Spa's expansion project are presented
to the city, often they affect the surrounding environment and
require an environmental impact report. This report is a series
of in-depth studies which exam the effects a large development
project will have on traffic and circulation, air and water quality,
and historical and cultural landmarks. If effects are significant
developers must show how they'll mitigate or replace that which
is being lost. Interactive Planning and Management Principal
representative John C. Jostes has been working with the city
to create a document called the Initial Study Assessment Guidelines
to help local policy makers to know when an EIR is in order.
"This is a tool that provides specific guidelines on how
to conduct the initial study on a project," Jostes said.
"It provides a greater transparency of how the environmental
review process works."
Jostes said the guidelines are based on the city's general plan
and on the California Environmental Quality Act that was originally
passed in 1970.
Commissioner Craig Brown noted that traffic data in the draft
document showed traffic volume numbers from 1986. He moved that
those numbers be updated and that no recommendation be made to
the City Council until the commission had reviewed it again.
The commission received two requests to review plans for commercial
building upgrades. The first, an architectural review, concerned
the Attitude Adjustment Shoppe in the Y Plaza shopping center.
Architect Richard Keeler presented remodel plans to the commission
that call for removing the existing trellis and replace it with
a stucco arcade that more closely matches the adjacent shopping
center where Von's is located.
And finally, after sitting patiently through a three-hour meeting,
Paul Robie, owner of the Chevron station at the corner of North
Montgomery Street and East Ojai Avenue, brought a second set
of plans for concept review from the commission. Robie had appeared
before the commission on March 11 with plans but met with a stream
of challenges. Robie plans to remove the service bays from the
station, expand the space and create a convenience food mart
in the building. The plans call for a five-inch thickening of
the walls, which will allow for recessed windows and the appearance
of adobe walls, a tan-colored stucco covering and wrought iron
coach light fixtures.
Commissioner Brown commented that the plans are much better than
the time before and that the design is much more in keeping with
the East Ojai Avenue Design Guidelines.
© 2002 The Ojai Valley News
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