CARLSBAD — Legoland and Grand Pacific Resorts went head to head with competing hotel expansion proposals at the Nov. 5 City Council meeting over a three-acre plot of land adjacent to the Crossings golf course.
Legoland garnered city staff’s recommendation with a proposal to build a 90-unit “Adventure Land” themed hotel complete with tree houses and “Hobbit lodges,” while Grand Pacific Resorts brought forth a proposal to build a Westin Hotel with 71 units and 50 timeshare units overlooking the golf course.
The City of Carlsbad and the Carlsbad Municipal Water District (CMWD), which collectively own the plot, put the land up for lease in May this year when both entities realized that the land was no longer being used.
City Council lamented its choice over the two applicants for the lease, emphasizing that both companies have served Carlsbad well over the years.
“It’s almost like a choice between two brothers,” said Mayor Matt Hall. “This is probably one of the most difficult choices I’ve had to make.”
“We have two great, very credible developers who want the same property,” said Council member Keith Blackburn.
A committee comprised of representatives from several city departments and committees along with hired consultants evaluated both proposals, considering the plans for the land, foreseeable financial benefits for the city and CMWD, the applicants’ experience, and the applicant’s litigation histories.
The recommendations came down to the financial benefits offered by each hotel plan.
Though both proposals presented substantial financial benefits in terms of lease payments, sales tax, property tax, and transient occupancy tax for the city and CMWD, city consultants concluded that Legoland’s more expensive accommodations offered slightly more paybacks than the Grand Pacific Resorts option.
In terms of paying for the respective projects, Grand Pacific Resorts planned to finance the new Westin Hotel with a conventional bank loan, and Legoland proposed paying for its Adventure Land hotel branch with it’s own internal financing.
According to city consultants, Legoland’s internal financing presented less financial and legal risk for the city and CMWD.
The committee found that Legoland offered a unique lodging option aimed at drawing families from around the world and Grand Pacific Resorts offered luxury accommodations for business travelers and returning vacationers.
They determined that while different, both proposals were equal in vision and plan, according to Kathy Dodson, community and economic development director, who presented the committee and staff findings.
The committee also agreed that both Legoland and Grand Pacific Resorts had solid business track records in Carlsbad as well as litigation histories.
But despite the review committee and consultants’ siding with Legoland, City Council voted in favor of the Grand Pacific Resorts proposal.
Mayor Pro Tem Mark Packard as well as Council members Blackburn and Lorraine Wood voted in favor of the Grand Pacific Resorts plan, saying the Westin made more sense because the lot is surrounded on three sides by Grand Pacific Resorts hotels.
They added that Legoland owns enough vacant property next to its theme park and existing hotel that could be developed for the Adventure Land hotel.
Hall voted in favor of Legoland, saying, “I need to disclose that I have two grandchildren and their second home is Lego(land).”
Council member Farrah Douglas abstained from voting because her printing company does business with one of the applicants.