A La Quinta resort project with a hotel, homes and a wave pool – which has drawn fierce opposition from people claiming it is a poor use of water during a drought – narrowly won planning commission approval on Tuesday and will now move on to city council for final consideration.
Voting for the Coral Mountain project took place in two motions: the first was for certification of the environmental impact report, which passed 5-2 with Vice President Loretta Currie and Commissioner Michael Proctor voting no.
The second motion was for blanket approval of the project, including the general plan amendment that adds “tourist commercial” to the zoning to allow for the hotel, wave pool and other resort amenities. This motion passed 4-3 with Currie and Proctor voting no with Commissioner Dale Tyerman.
Tyerman did not object to the zoning amendment, but to the 600 homes in the development qualifying as short-term vacation rentals along with the 104 hotel villas. His objection follows input from several nearby residents who objected to 600 short-term rentals in an area of La Quinta where few or no such rentals currently exist. Residents said they believe short-term rentals will cause more traffic and other problems in the area.
Commissioner Mary Caldwell also wanted only a percentage of homes to qualify for short-term rental permits, but others, including chairman Stephen Nieto, said STRs were a critical part of a planned resort’s success. .
Instead, commissioners agreed to city staff asking council members to consider approving a percentage of single-family homes for short-term rentals.
It was not immediately clear when the project would go before city council, but possibly at the May 17 meeting.
The planning commission votes came at the end of a five-hour meeting on Tuesday that included about two hours of public comment and more than two hours of discussion by commissioners. Each commented on major concerns regarding water use, lighting, and general plan changes, as well as short-term vacation rentals and other issues.
More than two dozen members of the public spoke at the public hearing, most of them in opposition. Foremost among their concerns was the wave basin’s use of water when California is in a drought.
“We are in an era of uncharted territory with climate change,” said resident Tracy Bartlett, founding member of the Cactus to Cloud Institute, a local nonprofit that advocates for water conservation and protection and from wildlife.
Community residents are being asked to conserve more by watering landscaping less, while restaurants can only serve water on demand, Bartlett noted.
“The surf pond is an irresponsible use of water that benefits neither La Quinta nor the Coachella Valley,” she said.
Tyerman said he was also concerned about the need to conserve water.
However, the wave pool alone would use about 12.6% of the water for development. The remaining 87% would be consumed by hotel, residential development and other elements, he said.
“I think using water as a reason to not endorse this doesn’t make sense,” Tyerman said.
He and others said that if CM Wave didn’t develop the property, someone else would and that would likely include homes and a hotel.
In opposing the project, Proctor said the water issue is not something the commissioners can justify simply by saying that housing will take more than the wave pool.
“The fact is the city needs homes and homes are going to be built in this valley whether we like it or not,” Proctor said. “Wave parks are the answer to a question that no one asks. So to excuse water use because it’s a small part of the overall project is specious at best.
If the project goes ahead, the water will be used “but it’s how we use it and who uses it that should be the deciding factor,” Proctor said.
Currie said she could not support the General Plan amendment to allow tourist commercial zoning to create a wave-pool resort, saying the project was inconsistent with the city’s goals and policies outlined in the document.
The overall plan “is our constitution here in the city of La Quinta,” Currie said. The amendment, she said, was inconsistent and inconsistent with nearby developments, which are low-density housing with golf courses.
“It is also not a good substitute for alternative forms of recreation and could harm public health and the general well-being of surrounding communities due to excessive noise, traffic and unnecessary waste of water,” Currie said.
Caldwell said a general plan lasts 20 years and things change over that time, and it’s not uncommon to make occasional changes along the way.
“I’ve come to think that changing the general plan isn’t an unreasonable thing to do,” Caldwell said, to meet the changing needs of a community.
A $200 million project
Coral Mountain Resort is a $200 million development proposed by CM Wave Development LLC for 386 acres on the southwest corner of 58 Avenue and Madison Street.
The proposal includes a 16.6-acre wave pad for private use using technology developed by professional surfer Kelly Slater.
The land was part of the Andalusia development until 2019 when it was purchased by Meriwether and Big Sky Wave – now CM Wave Development – from Andalusian owner, Sunrise Co.
A community of 750 homes with an 18-hole golf course has already been approved for the property.
Tuesday was the third meeting of commissioners on the project. The first meeting on March 22 continued after commissioners listened for seven hours to reports from CM Wave Development staff and representatives and comments from the public. The stewards asked for additional information on lighting and options for the wave pool if it was built but not successful enough to stay open. They requested that a development schedule be presented to them at their April 12 meeting.
With one member absent on April 12, the commissioners decided to delay a decision for two weeks, but received the additional information they were looking for and asked more questions. After hearing more public comments, they elected to delay a vote until everyone was present.
During the two meetings, the commissioners also listened to comments from dozens of residents, most of them against the project – not only for the use of water, but also for the increased noise, traffic and lighting.
Consulting planner Nicole Sauviat Criste said Coral Mountain Resort is the largest and most complex project the city has seen in some time.
City staff estimated that upon construction, Coral Mountain Resort could earn La Quinta $1.4 million to $2.83 million annually in transitional occupancy taxes, depending on the number of short-term rentals allowed. .
About Coral Mountain Resort
CM Wave Development offers a planned hotel complex with a maximum of 150 rooms and up to 600 residential units – 496 in a low density residential area and 104 in a tourist commercial area. In addition to the wave pool, the proposal includes other indoor and outdoor spa and leisure facilities including ropes courses, swimming pools and passive and protected open spaces for private use only by Owners Club members and owners. resort guests.
The development would also include a park and hiking trail at Coral Mountain that would be open to the public and managed by the Desert Recreation District.
Plans also call for a maximum of four special events per year at the Wave Pool that would attract up to 2,500 people each. The events would each need a special permit from the city to occur.
CM Wave Development said it was trying to bring something unique to La Quinta and the Coachella Valley, which has a tourism-driven economy.
“We’re talking about a premium, upscale private club” like no other in the Coachella Valley, said project manager John Gamlin.
It’s designed to be family-friendly, with something for everyone, which Gamlin says is important in keeping the La Quinta and Coachella Valley tourist market appealing to shoppers.
A schedule forming part of the development agreement shows that the construction of Coral Mountain Resort would be done in phases, taking up to 23 years. The wave pool and part of the station would initially be built within three to five years of the project being approved by the city council.
One item the commissioners did not advance was an application for a site development permit for the construction of the wave pool to begin with council approval of the project. The commissioners felt they needed more information before they could vote on the permit.
This is a developing story; check back for updates.
Desert Sun reporter Sherry Barkas covers the cities of La Quinta, Indian Wells, Rancho Mirage and Palm Desert. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @TDSsherryBarkas