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Tennis club isn't for sale, co-owner says

Newport mayor says using site for new city hall has become less likely as city has investigated it.

December 21, 2006|By Alicia Robinson

Where some Newport Beach City Council members envision a new city hall, developer Robert O Hill envisions a first-class recreational facility for tennis and golf, with private bungalows to house marquee players during the Toshiba Classic golf tournament as well as tennis and golf club members and their guests the rest of the year.

Both plans would use a seven-acre parcel on East Coast Highway, and both would be costly — particularly the city's, since O Hill partly owns the property and has vowed not to sell.

The City Council in October agreed to seek an appraisal of the parcel, now home to the Balboa Bay Club Racquet Club, with results due in January. As the Daily Pilot reported Dec. 9, two council members have said the city could use eminent domain, but it's unclear whether a majority of the council would support that.

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"As we've looked further into the property, it's becoming less and less likely that we're going to pursue that property — I think that's the bottom line," Mayor Steve Rosansky said Wednesday.

O Hill is the managing partner for a group of investors who own the property.

Once news of the city's interest began to spread, O Hill said in an interview this week, members of the racquet club and the adjacent Newport Beach Country Club — also on property he owns — began calling to ask what was going on.

"One day, I got 36 calls," he said. "They were very upset and their first question was am I going to sell them out."

His answer, he said, is a definitive no.

"First of all, I don't sell properties, and second of all, this is something that has a great emotional attachment for me," O Hill said.

Now that city voters have passed the updated general plan, O Hill can begin on a master plan for the golf and tennis clubs that's been in the works almost since he bought the property in 1993.

Plans he submitted to the city in 2005 include reducing the racquet club's courts from 24 to 10, adding a 10,600-square-foot tennis clubhouse with a swimming pool and spa, and building 27 bungalows with a "concierge center" with various amenities. O Hill did not have a total estimated cost for the project.

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