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Newport council agrees with Planning Commission recommendation

Clubhouse will expand to 56,000 square feet

luxury hotel suites and five homes will replace 17 tennis courts.

January 25, 2012|By Mike Reicher

NEWPORT BEACH — Warring business owners fought a bizarre property-rights battle in the City Council Chambers on Tuesday night.

The owners of the Newport Beach County Club property and the owner-operators of the club itself presented competing redevelopment plans.

Ultimately, the council agreed with the Planning Commission's recommendation to approve a hybrid plan, allowing the groups to replace 17 tennis courts with 27 luxury hotel suites and five homes, and to significantly expand the clubhouse.

"We urged both parties to resolve their differences before they came to the city and not put the city in this kind of a position," said Councilman Ed Selich, who had attempted to mediate an agreement over the past two years. "It's not right. It's not fair to do that."

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Local investor Robert O Hill owns the land and splits the property rights with other parties, while International Bay Clubs, which also owns the Balboa Bay Club, owns and operates the Country Club.

The main difference between the plans was the size of the new clubhouse. O Hill's plan kept it at 35,000 square feet; the club proposed an expanded building with a banquet facility at 56,000 square feet.

Some residents said the larger clubhouse, which the council selected, would bring more traffic.

"It looks like it's a disguised banquet facility for me, and not a country club," said Michelle Freeman, who supported the smaller clubhouse.

Others, including some club members, preferred the larger building.

To complicate matters, O Hill is in a legal dispute with his fellow property owners about who can control development on the site. Michael Recupero, an attorney for the other property owners, said O Hill hasn't shared the proposed business plan with his clients.

Nonetheless, O Hill promoted the idea to the council, describing the level of luxury — Jacuzzis in each villa — and the potential guests.

"The Disney board could have a retreat here," he said.

Mayor Nancy Gardner cast the lone dissenting vote, citing the potential displacement of players onto city tennis courts, and what she thought were flaws in the project's traffic analysis.

Because the issue lasted past 11 p.m., the council had to postpone its vote on a proposed smoking ban and its vote on restrictions for commercial activity in public parks.

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CdM lot merger back to Planning Commission

In another development battle, the owners of two lots on Ocean Boulevard changed their plans to merge the properties and build a large house, prompting the council to refer the matter back to the Planning Commission.

Dozens of people attended the council meeting to either protest or support the plans at 2808 and 2812 Ocean Blvd. Some neighbors maintain that the merger and new home would clash with Corona del Mar's character.

mike.reicher@latimes.com

Twitter: @mreicher

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