CARLSBAD — In a twist, the City Council ended in a 2-2 tie vote over the controversial Carlsbad Village Center proposal.
Councilman Keith Blackburn, the swing vote, chose to vote against during the Feb. 13 meeting, saying he did not like the look and feel of the project at the northwest corner of State Street and Carlsbad Village Drive when driving west to east from the beach. As a result, the item has 60 days to be placed back on the agenda or it dies.
Mayor Matt Hall, meanwhile, recused himself noting his wife owns property in the noticed area. Councilwoman Cori Schumacher voted against the project and does not support it, while Councilmen Michael Schumacher (no relation) and Mark Packard are in favor citing the vitality of the Village and the property owner’s right to monetize his land.
However, Blackburn said he would support the project if the developer and owner, Leor Lakritz, came back with a more inviting look, although Blackburn struggled to specify what he meant.
The item is tentatively scheduled to go back before the council on March 27.
“I am very protective of the Village,” Blackburn said. “If you are driving west to east, you’re almost blocked from being welcomed into the State Street area.”
Currently, the site houses Choice Juicery and seating and lounging area for customers and pedestrians. However, the council did approve Lakritz’s application to add two more containers on the parcel to increase revenue.
If the council approves the proposal, the containers would be removed and in their place a 25,631-square-foot, four story, 45-foot-tall mixed-use building with a 12-space subterranean parking garage would be constructed with one additional handicapped space at ground level.
The application also seeks the parking-in-lieu agreement, which totals $11,240 for each of the 17 commercial spaces to satisfy the requirements of the Village Master Plan. The site calls for 30 spaces.
A letter submitted to the city from the Village Faire shopping center west of the site across the train tracks strongly objected to the project. The owners of the center, along with 18 other business owners, signed the letter and said the parking-in-lieu would put additional stress on the Village Faire’s lot and create more traffic.
In addition, opponents also lamented against the height, which is 16 feet taller than the building next door and 25 feet higher than on the east side of State Street.
“If you compare (to other buildings) … it’s not compatible,” resident Scott Engel said. “Density is used as the ace in the hole. We need to compromise. It would be a lot better for the community.”
During the City Council meeting, many residents railed against the project saying it did not compliment the Village, it was significantly taller than the other buildings on State Street and would add parking and traffic problems in the area.
One woman, though, questioned why the project would be denied if the developer meets and exceeds the standards set forth in the Village Master Plan. She questioned the logic of recruiting development, meeting standards only to deny a project because some disagree.
“We have to be very careful the attitude we are putting forth,” resident Laurie Boone said. “It takes so much to get a project approved in Carlsbad because we have high standards. If they meet or exceed them … how can we have integrity and say no?”
As for short-term rentals, the City Council would allow the use. The Planning Commission adopted a resolution prohibiting the practice, but the council may reverse the decision since short-term vacation rentals are permitted in the coastal zone.