MONTECITO — The owner of the Miramar Hotel property held a news conference on Wednesday to announce “milestones” in the seven-year-long project. Rick Caruso said his plan is to start construction next year. But he also said in order to keep to that timeline, he will have to have a deal with the County of Santa Barbara to secure the 15 years of the transient occupancy tax rebate through the Hotel Incentive Program.This issue is not new.On Monday, for the first time since November, Caruso stepped onto the 17 acres of land to tour the vacant lot now that the run-down buildings are gone. He also addressed members of the media to announce next steps to create what he calls a “five star, first class project.” “Well my goal is we open up this property in 2016. Which means we end up designing through the year, we get out TOT issue resolved quickly, and we get out on the market this year for our financing and we break ground next year. That’s my timeline,” explained Caruso. Construction plans are approved. Demolition is completed. However, breaking ground is a whole other issue especially when the TOT or transient occupancy tax rebate program’s details haven’t been agreed upon between Caruso Affiliated and the county. “The over arching issue is that we need a commitment that the reimbursement of the TOT comes back to us if we make the investment,” said Caruso. He wants a 15 year guarantee he will get a 70 percent rebate on the tax hotels pay to the county. “This is one of those instances that has the potential, assuming we get over some of these legal challenges to really yield a lot of benefits for our community. But again we got to get over these legal challenges,” said Supervisor Salud Carbajal. Residents are hoping an agreement can come about soon so the more than 180 room hotel can be built. “Mr. Caruso is a first class developer and we’re really happy that he’s doing this project and we expect to have a fabulous, fabulous hotel here hopefully in a couple of years,” said Richard Nordlund, former president of the Montecito Association. There isn’t a date set up yet for the county and Caruso Affiliated to sit back down and try to hammer out a deal regarding the Hotel Incentive Program. Caruso said if no agreement comes about soon, the 2016 timeline slips.
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