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Dunes asks council to postpone hotel vote

September 06, 2000

Alex Coolman

NEWPORT BEACH -- The developer that has pushed for the expansion of

the Newport Dunes resort and bemoaned the city's slow deliberation on the

proposal performed an about-face Tuesday, requesting that any decision on

the project be postponed until after the November election.

Newport Dunes, which has been working to get approval for a 470-room

hotel and 31,000-square-foot convention center, stated its new position

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in a letter sent Tuesday to the City Council.

"We feel there is simply too much on the table, for both the community

and the council, to allow for the extensive deliberation this project

requires and the thoughtful consideration it deserves," said the letter,

which was signed by officials from the Dunes and Evans Hotels, the San

Diego developer spearheading the project.

The letter suggested that the development be brought back for approval

"at such time as we and the City Council are prepared to once again

address this issue."

Representatives from Evans Hotels and Newport Dunes did not return

calls for comment Tuesday.

The developer's move was greeted with equanimity by city officials,

who said they regarded it as a politically realistic gesture.

"I think it's a diplomatic way of them respecting the Greenlight

initiative," said Councilman Tod Ridgeway.

The Greenlight initiative, formally called Measure S and set to appear

on the November ballot, would make voter approval necessary for projects

in the city requiring amendments to the General Plan.

Ridgeway said he did not think there would be any problem with the

Dunes project being removed from consideration.

"If they want to be taken off the calendar, that's their choice," he

said.

Opponents of the project said they viewed the move as a savvy attempt

to avoid generating controversy during a politically dicey period.

"I'm sure the city is breathing a sigh of relief and hoping to lull

the people into thinking Greenlight isn't necessary," said Susan Caustin,

co-founder of the group called Stop the Dunes Hotel.

Phil Arst, spokesman for the Greenlight initiative, had similar

sentiments.

"We applaud [the Dunes] acknowledging the concern of residents who

have sponsored Greenlight, but we also recognize that this is an effort

to avoid generating more support for Greenlight," he said.

The developer's new position is a 180-degree turn from the one it took

in June when the council delayed a vote on the project for several

months.

At that time, Tim Quinn, project manager for the Dunes, said he was

"shocked" by the holdup.

"We believe that this is really unfair to Newport Dunes and, more

important, to the hundreds of community members who have participated in

the process," Quinn said at the time.

Those community members will apparently now have to wait, however,

until the political waters of Newport Beach are a little less murky.

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