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MONTECITO, CA-This city’s planning commission has unanimously granted a conditional approval for L.A. developer Rick Caruso’s plan for a new hotel at the historic 16-acre site of the Miramar Hotel. The conditional approval means that the approval is non-binding, notes Rick Caruso, CEO of Caruso Affiliated, who says that his firm plans on “being back in front of” the planning commission soon to finalize the plans for the Miramar.

The vote followed a seven-hour meeting and came after Caruso’s third appearance before the Montecito Planning Commission since July. The plans approved this week incorporated “significant revisions to the project in response to comments made by the commissioners and the community,” according to a statement from Caruso.

Caruso’s proposed changes for the hotel property include moving the guestroom and ballroom buildings along South Jameson Lane further back from the road, lowering the height of the main building an additional four feet, reducing the overall room count by 12 rooms by removing a two-story 24-room guest building and replacing it with two one-story six-room cottages, moving the guest rooms further away from the western property line, reducing the overall floor area of the hotel by eliminating rooms and removing lighting from the tennis courts.

Caruso is shooting for an Oct. 8 approval for the project, for which his development firm has also provided an updated traffic analysis to the county. According to Caruso, the project will generate even less traffic with the reduction in rooms the than the previous plan for the site.

In addition to granting Caruso the conditional approval, the planning commission also made two additional key decisions regarding the project. It voted to reverse its previous decision on requiring an environmental impact report on the project’s water supply, unanimously stating that information received both from Caruso and the Montecito Water District satisfied the panel’s questions and concerns. Additionally, the commission voted to allow Caruso to use the hotel’s beach parcel and easement along the railroad tracks in its calculation of overall lot size.

Caruso purchased the nearly 16-acre site in February 2007 and released his first detailed plans for the project in June 2007. Since then, he has revised the plan a number of times in response to community input.

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