CARLSBAD — The prospective developer of the controversial Carlsbad Boat Club & Resort knows he and his partner have a steep hill to climb.
Jim Courtney and Mike Pfankuch have long been locked in a battle with residents on Adams Street on the north shore of Agua Hedionda Lagoon.
At stake is a proposed 20-unit timeshare development, although Courtney said tactics by opponents have presented “misinformation” to other concerned residents.
The Carlsbad Planning Commission tabled the item last week after another agenda item ran about four hours. The boat club proposal is expected to be heard Feb. 15 and has been recommended for approval by city staff.
“We are between the proverbial rock and a hard place,” Courtney said. “Planning staff knows what is going on. We took a section out. We stepped back the balconies even more from the water.”
Courtney bought the property in 1986 before much was developed on the shore. It used to be a residence, but then it transitioned into a restaurant and launch point for boats and other watercraft.
Over the past 15 years, however, the battle between Courtney and Pfankuch’s plan has heated up.
A proposal was rejected several years ago by the planning commission and Courtney said he is making it clear the new project will not ruin the neighborhood and complies will all city codes and land uses.
In fact, he said, his property is zoned for visitor commercial (VC) and has been since buying the land more than 30 years ago. As for his neighbors, Courtney said those “mansions” were also zoned VC, but were changed to residential when the homeowners built their residences.
Perhaps the biggest challenge, though, is the California Coastal Commission, Courtney said. He added that the permit needed must be obtained through the commission as part of the Local Coastal Plan, which is specific to the club’s location on the lagoon.
“It’s the only area in the whole city that the city doesn’t have permit authority on,” Courtney explained.
In 2006, Courtney and Pfankuch proposed condos, but were rebuffed by the planning commission and city council. It started as 32 condos, but was trimmed to 26 units before the pair submitted the plans to the city.
“Everybody screamed that the density was too high,” Courtney said. “We made a couple visits to the Coastal (Commission) and they said … it has to be commercial. The city has down zoned all of our visitor commercial around the lagoon and that is the only piece of land left.”
Many residents in the area, though, are fighting the proposal as at least nearly two dozen appeared at last week’s meeting to voice opposition.
At least two homeowners associations and at least 10 residents have sent protest letters.
Opponents noted the project is nearly the same in terms of square footage and bedroom size as the previous plan. One resident noted the new proposal is 76 square-feet and three bedrooms smaller than the previous plan.
Residents also said the lagoon’s ecosystem, narrow street, noise and water traffic were other reasons the project should be denied.
Perhaps the biggest objection, however, is residents said the project is incompatible with the area. The waterfront properties, minus the project, plus surrounding homes are single-family residences and a building with dozens of tourists doesn’t make sense.
A group of residents formed the Carlsbad Lagoon Protection Council and began an “ipetition” online. The petition states the development would generate 3,000 to 4,000 new users of the lagoon, which is “in jeopardy of pollution according to the State Water Control Agency.”
In addition, Adams Street has seven blind turns and “only five percent paved sidewalks.”
“My partner and I have probably been the best stewards of the lagoon of anybody on it since we’ve been here,” Courtney said. “We’ve allowed all the neighboring properties access through our driveway to develop their properties and now they’re fighting us.”
Courtney said the campaign against him started with a neighbor and is full of inaccurate information.
He said the project calls for eight more parking spaces than required with two on street level. As for the boats, Courtney said only boats from the boat club will be used to launch and no boat traffic will jam up the street.
Parking for the club, meanwhile, is mostly underground, while roof levels are even with neighboring homes, he added.
“Nobody will be allowed to tow a boat,” Courtney said. “It complies with every code in the city. It complies with the General Plan, it complies with all things of the Local Coastal Plan and the Coastal Act.”
The planning department report states in the application, the project would provide street improvements and the geotechnical report indicates the project is suitable for the type and density.
In addition, a preliminary hydrology report indicates all runoff can be controlled on site.
“The bottom line is everything was down zoned and developed when we had the restaurant going,” Courtney said. “They think the lagoon belongs to them. I want to make sure people get the true facts.”