1/25/12  Unanimously passed by Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors

LAKEPORT, Calif. -- The plans for a proposed Northshore health resort took another step forward this week.  Following a public hearing Tuesday morning, the Board of Supervisors voted 4-0 -- with Supervisor Denise Rushing absent -- to approve a rezone, mitigated negative declaration and general plan of development for Dr. Robert Gardner’s proposed Utopia Health Resort.  Gardner is proposing to build the health and hospitality resort in phases. At buildout it is expected to have a guest lodge, 24 villas, 25 cabins, 100 suites and medical-, health- and spa-related amenities on numerous parcels on the hillside overlooking Clear Lake between Nice and Lucerne.
The project will be located at 5440, 5460, 5490 and 5610 E. State Highway 20; 5130 Foothill Drive; 5163, 5169 and 5173 Dunstan Road; 5563 and 5573 Dunstan Drive; 5637, 5647, 5667, 5687 and 5697 Fennel Road; 5707 Fennel Drive and 5069 Windsor Drive, Lucerne.

The Lake County Planning Commission voted unanimously Dec. 8 to move the project forward to the board, as Lake County News has reported.  Community Development Director Rick Coel and Senior Planner Kevin Ingram presented the project to the board.  Ingram told the board that its approvals wouldn’t allow building to start, as there were still many steps and a lot of review in the process ahead.  Gardner showed the board pictures of how he’s improved the property, including tearing down old buildings and cleaning up illegal dumping.  A number of groups and individuals expressed support for the proposed resort.  Victoria Brandon of the Sierra Club Lake Group commended Gardner for his approach to the project, noting that he went to the group years ago to ask for input. He subsequently addressed their concerns as the project evolved.  Brandon said she thinks the resort will be “a tremendous benefit for the community.”  The last remaining concern involves Gardner’s proposal to build a seaplane dock on the lake. While transportation is an issue for the county, “We’ve lost too much lakeside vegetation already,” Brandon said.
Gardner has since told the group that he’s willing to plan more lakeside vegetation, according to Brandon.  Brandon said she hopes other developers bring forward projects like Gardner’s and involve the community in the planning process.

Attorney Andre Ross, representing the Lake County Chamber of Commerce Legislative Committee, said the group believes Gardner’s project is a good one, and that it will be economically beneficial.  Carol Cole-Lewis of Thrive Lake County and Gary Lewis of the North Shore Business Association also expressed support.
In response to questions about mercury levels at the site, Gardner told the board that tests revealed that mercury levels in the project area actually are below average.
Supervisor Jeff Smith said he knew how badly Gardner had wanted to do the project for many years.  “It’s just exactly what we’ve been looking for in Lake County,” Smith said.  Ingram said the next steps will involve Gardner bringing back specifics about the site plan.  Added Coel, “Think of today’s action as just the regulatory umbrella.”
Board Chair Rob Brown said the project has been on the radar a long time.  The paper lots on the hillsides have been the focus of many complaints due to garbage dumping, poaching and off-road motorcycles, he said.  “In my opinion, this is what would end all that,” he said.

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