2 hotels could be built at Newport Dunes after O.C. Supervisors approve plan

Two new hotels could be on the horizon for the Newport Dunes site.

The Orange County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved a proposal for the operators of the Newport Dunes Waterfront Resort to sublease a portion of the 102-acre county-owned site to Brighton Management LLC for development of two hotels connected by a shared lobby.

Brighton has proposed building a Holiday Inn Resort and a Staybridge Suites on a vacant area adjacent to Upper Newport Bay near Camp James, the Newport Dunes resort’s youth camp.

Plans show the Holiday Inn and Staybridge Suites buildings reaching heights of three stories with 144 and 120 guest rooms, respectively. The development also would include a pool, tennis courts, sand volleyball courts and a picnic area, plans show.

“The development calls for utilizing a single common entry and certain shared common facilities such as food service to create greater efficiency for the hotel operations, while providing two separate hotel concepts, both representing value-oriented accommodations,” a county staff report states.

Newport Beach Development Director Kim Brandt said the proposed project will need to go before the city Planning Commission and the California Coastal Commission before construction could begin. The process often takes years to complete.

“They have to obtain permits, and there would be a thorough environmental review,” Brandt said.

This isn’t the first time a hotel has been proposed for the site.

In 1983, the city, the county and a Newport Dunes marina tenant entered a settlement agreement to resolve jurisdictional and entitlement disputes related to development of the property.

The agreement, which limits building on the land, includes a provision requiring that any hotel constructed on the property not exceed 500,000 square feet and stating that it should be family-oriented. The hotel also cannot exceed 275 rooms, 40% of which must include kitchenettes.

In 2000, the Newport Beach Planning Commission approved plans for a four-story, 470-room hotel and a 31,000-square-foot conference center at Newport Dunes.

The approval prompted residents to pass the Greenlight Initiative with the intent of slowing development in the city, said Councilman Ed Selich, who was chairman of the Planning Commission when the project was up for consideration.

The slow-growth initiative requires a citywide vote on any development that would cause an increase of more than 100 peak-hour car trips or contain 40,000 square feet more than the general plan allows.

Instead of putting the project to a citywide vote, the developer dropped it, Selich said.

Windsor Capital Group Inc. approached the county in 2009 with a proposed hotel development but was unable to move forward because of the recession, county documents state.