Inn expansion clears Planning
by C.A. Gilman
Employees of the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa, their supporters,
and detractors overflowed City Chambers at Monday night's special
meeting of the Planning Commission for the inn's expansion plans.
After presentations, speeches, and comments from the inn's general
management, architects, planners, and staff, Ojai resident, and
city staff and consultants, the Planning Commission unanimously
approved adopting the final Environmental Impact Report (EIR),
the inn's traffic mitigation program, the architectural review,
parcel map, zone change, tree permits, development agreement,
and conditions of approval.
Contract Planner Laura Bridley presented the recommendations
to the commission. "The Ojai Valley Inn & Spa is proposing
renovations and additions to its existing campus, including a
6,700-square-foot increase in conference facility space, a net
increase of 95 guest rooms, relocation of certain restaurant
space, addition of 172 parking spaces and construction of a new
20,540-square-foot central services facility."
Thad Hyland, the inn's managing director, supplied a PowerPoint
presentation of future construction, and the need to expand to
remain competitive with other Central Coast resorts. He cited
competition from other high-end resort spas such as the Bacara,
Miramar, and Santa Barbara Biltmore which either have expanded
or restored their facilities to meet market demands. Hyland noted
the need for high speed Internet access, lighting and signage,
increased ADA access, expanded conference and dining areas, enhanced
pool and recreational facilities, improved employee centers,
and environmental mitigation monitoring.
Hyland said, "The Inn was built in 1923 to attract visitors
to the beauty of Ojai - about 60,000 a year. We have over 35
percent return rate; and many return to live here. We hope to
be here another 79 years.
"We have lost a number of events to the Bacara resort because
we couldn't compete. That means jobs, and taxes. We have 653
employees currently and that represents 2,000 lives - that's
children and spouses. 66 percent of 653 employees live in Ojai
Valley; our average wage is $14 (per hour). We have attractive
benefit and retirement programs and intend to add 50 new jobs
and a lot of career opportunities when the project is complete.
"We are building an on-site co-generation plant which is
a $700,000 project which will produce half of our energy needs
based on natural gas and will be 66 percent cleaner than the
current Ventura County standards. All the parking lots will have
built-in bioswales which will capture the leakage from vehicles
to keep them from getting into our storm drains."
Hyland added that all new buildings would be compliant with Title
24 energy usage.
After discovering two wetlands on their design plans, they are
moving the parking lot areas away from the wetlands.
The inn will be adding 240 new trees - live oaks and sycamores,
and taking out many of the non-native eucalyptus. They will continue
with their organic plantings and expand the four acres of lavender
they have already planted. They are also switching over to 65
per cent organic fertilizers on their golf course.
"This project will provide additional tax base for the
city, and enable us to continue our charitable and cultural contributions.
Our guests also enhance the town through shopping, dining, and
attending cultural events in town. The inn and the town go hand
in hand. Every community is like an eco-system, the inn is part
of that eco-system."
Bill Mayhen, the project architect, has been architect for the
inn since 94. Mayhen's intention is to emulate the architecture
on the old clubhouse which was designed by renowned architect
Walter Neff. The post-modern designs will be replaced by Spanish-revival
The Central Services building that will be accessible via Hermosa
Road off Highway 150/33. This will eliminate the truck traffic
down Ojai Ave to Country Club Road, Hyland said. Central Services
will house human resources, administration, classrooms, operations,
and employee facilities.
Commissioner Craig Smith asked, "How do the current traffic
measurement measures impact the environment?"
Andy Belknap, project consultant working with the Inn, said,
"The real reason you can reduce traffic is local work. A
strong majority of the employees that work at the Inn will live
Inn employees and spouses Brooke Miles, Alicia Collin, Rose Manoi,
Brian Scaggs, Neffertiti Walden, spoke of the opportunities the
inn has provided them - in education, career advancement and
working close to home so they could also be with their families.
Residents Joan Kemper, Carl Huntsinger, Alan Rains, Zubin Levy,
Barbara Bowman, and Ojai Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive
Officer Scott Eicher acknowledged the many contributions the
inn has made to the city. Kemper said, "Without the Inn's
help many of the non-profit and cultural events in town wouldn't
go through. The inn was extremely helpful with their gifts with
the Pergola, trees in Libbey Park, the Ojai Valley Land Conservancy,
the Besant Meadow and Palmer property and the hospital."
Huntsinger said, "The inn does not give press releases or
look for recognition. They and their parent were instrumental
in (defeating) Weldon Canyon (site of proposed landfill project)"
Rains said, ""In addition to being a large employer,
the inn is an industry that we want in Ojai - a clean industry.
Their TOT (Transient Occupancy Tax) is the largest source of
income for the city. That tax will increase by almost $900,000.
The OVI's success is very important to the success of the Ojai
Ivor Benci-Woodward, president of the Citizens to Preserve the
Ojai, said to the Commission, "I have supported the inn's
expansion and saw this as an opportunity. I don't believe you
have done your best to see it that way. You have chosen the lazy
way out. In order to for you to keep your responsibility you
will have to override the traffic impact of this project."
2002 The Ojai Valley News
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