CARLSBAD — The Grand Pacific Resorts will likely add new buildings next to the Sheraton on Grand Pacific Drive.
As part of the expansion, Grand Pacific staff asked the Planning Commission to change the zoning in the Carlsbad Ranch Planning Area 5, which is the small area along Grand Pacific Drive north of Legoland and south of Cannon Road.
On Wednesday the commission voted 5-1 to approve a recommendation to change the zoning to allow for four stories instead of three.
The height restrictions did not change, which is why the majority of the commissioners approved the recommendation.
The maximum building height for the area is 35 feet unless an applicant gets a site-specific plan approval, which allows buildings up to 45 feet with the City Council’s approval.
City Planner Don Neu told the commission the extra floor would not increase the number of rooms in the resort because the area allows for a maximum of 700 rooms.
Bill Hofman, president of Hofman Planning and Engineering, which is planning the project, said the extra floor will add better ocean views and give the project more space for a gym, extra dining and will keep more open space in the area because an extra building will not need to be built.
He said the project could be done in three floors but it would be difficult.
“It gets crowded and we want to retain the open space that we have,” Hofman said.
The Fire Prevention staff approved the plans.
Three people spoke against the recommendation because they don’t want Carlsbad’s ocean views to be taken away and feel the four story building would change the small-town charm of Carlsbad.
“Carlsbad is special, it’s not built up like La Jolla or Newport Beach,” Carlsbad resident Alex Szabo told the commission. “We should be representing the residents of Carlsbad, not the revenue streams of two hotel chains.”
Some commissioners agreed they were concerned that approving four stories in the area would set a bad precedence for the city but since the applicant wasn’t asking for a height change, they said they could approve it.
“I do think that adding an additional level very well could be precedent setting but to be fair to the applicant, I think it’s important to look at every project on its own merits,” Commissioner Marty Montgomery said.
Commissioner Victoria Scully was the only no vote. Commissioner Velyn Anderson was absent.
Scully voted against the recommendation because she said hotels in the surrounding areas were three stories and offered the same amenities.
“(The fourth floor) is not necessary to be successful,” Scully said.
Hofman told the commission not all of the additional buildings will be four stories, just a few.
The commissioners who approved the recommendation said the hotel is in a unique area without surrounding residential or industrial units and a fourth story would not affect the nearby hotels.
City Council will need to approve the zoning change and the staff at Grand Pacific Resort will need to get a site-specific plan approved in the coming months.