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MONTECITO, CA-Los Angeles developer Rick Caruso and plaintiffs in a lawsuit over his plans to redevelop the Miramar Hotel in this Santa Barbara County community have reached an agreement that allows the project to proceed. Jean and Stan Harfenist, who filed a CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) lawsuit over the project, issued a joint statement with Caruso on Tuesday saying that they have reached an agreement that will result in the withdrawals of both the CEQA lawsuit and an appeal of the Miramar project they had filed with the California Coastal Commission.

The statement said that the agreement “clears all hurdles for the Miramar project, and will allow Caruso to immediately proceed with developing the project.” Caruso, founder and CEO of Caruso Affiliated, previously won approvals from the Santa Barbara County Supervisors and the Montecito Planning Commission for his proposal for a new luxury hotel at the site of the former Miramar Hotel. However, Caruso has encountered opposition along the way in seeking to build a 192-room hotel on the 16-acre oceanfront site of the former hotel.

The Harfenists had filed the lawsuit and the Coastal Commission appeal on behalf of themselves and a group of neighbors who live adjacent to the Miramar property. The settlement includes an agreement calling for the parties to work cooperatively to improve the drainage problems at Oak Creek. The local Citizens Planning Association also filed a letter withdrawing its separate Coastal Commission appeal.

Caruso said that he is “totally committed to the development of a first-class family-friendly resort hotel at the Miramar site so we can finally bring back the tradition of the Miramar.” The history of the property dates back to 1876 when a pioneering couple named Josiah and Emmeline Doulton bought an oceanfront property and eventually developed it into a series of guest cottages called Ocean View Farm, later changing the name to Miramar.

The Miramar closed in 2000, and the shuttered property has been considered an eyesore almost ever since. Caruso’s plans for the new Miramar will feature three restaurants, a spa, a beach club, ballroom facilities and a boardwalk along Miramar Beach.

Caruso has said that he hopes to begin work this year and open the redeveloped hotel in 2011. Caruso Affiliated bought the hotel in January 2007 and has been working on the redevelopment plans ever since. The Harfenists said in their statement that throughout the approval process “We have been supportive of a new hotel at this site, but we had concerns that we felt needed to be addressed.

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