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Retail Plan For Castle Oaks Gets Downsized

Reprinted with permission from Amador Ledger-Dispatch

Ione, CA — Plans for retail and office space, multi-family units, hotel and new single family residences near the entrance to the city of Ione’s Castle Oaks Golf Course may be morphing again.

At a workshop for the Ione City Council, planning commission and other interested parties, JTS Communities proposed to further modify a 20-year-old plan that underwent one major modification in 2006.

The plan approved in 2006 entitles JTS to create 100,000 square feet of commercial/retail space, build an 80-room hotel and 139 single-family residential units. But the economic downturn and rapidly changing real estate development situation may have led JTS to revise its plan.

An overview of the proposed project was provided by Rob Aragon of JTS, along with Bill Crump and Kerrin West of project land planner/architect Studio 81 International.

The proposed new plan would eliminate the hotel entirely, raise the number of single family dwellings to 153 and substantially reduce the retail square footage to 45,300 square feet. The plan would use some of the lost retail space to add 63 units of multi-family housing in seven buildings. Another portion of the retail would be changed into 24,200 square feet of medical office space.

The retail space was proposed to be divided into an anchor site of 25,200 square feet, 16,500 square feet of small shops and a 3,600-square foot convenience mart with a gasoline station.

Council reaction was mixed, beginning with Councilman Jim Ulm’s statement that the project had been changed so much that he didn’t recognize it any more. Ulm said that the city needs a hotel and the full 100,000 square feet of retail space.

Mayor Lee Ard received the proposal favorably, welcoming the medical office space and the multi-family housing, if it was set up for seniors.

Councilman Skip Schaufel asked the project representatives whether JTS had thought about building the hotel on the proposed multi-family site and moving the multi-family housing elsewhere in the Castle Oaks subdivision. He suggested an area with a view, adjacent to the ninth hole, at the south end of the course.

Councilman David Plank said that he would still like to see a new hotel in Ione. He recommended that JTS work with another property owner, in hope of finding an alternative location. Councilwoman Andrea Bonham echoed Plank’s desire for a hotel, noting the city’s need for accommodations and parking for travelers with boats and horse trailers.

Public input at the workshop came from Jack Brotherton, Jerry Podesta and Dominic Atlan. Brotherton expressed concern over this project’s shift of focus from the restoration of downtown, as well as the gas station/convenience store’s cannibalization of business from the city’s central area.

Podesta found fault with the project’s lack of egress and ingress off Fairway Drive. He also said that the commercial and retail would be hidden by moving them to a site not directly on Highway 104.

Atlan, who is general manager of Castle Oaks Golf Course, stated his opinion that the multi-family units should be condominiums, rather than apartments. He also pointed out that, if a hotel were viable at this location, it would have been built twenty years earlier. He advised the city council to think about potential revenues from sales tax, building permits and other sources, and not just from the transient occupancy taxes that would come from a hotel.

Ione planning commissioner Mike McDermed said that he saw a need for a medical complex in Ione and that he thought it would be a good fit.

Fellow planning commissioner Mark Hopkins asked if the developers had a contingency plan, in case the retail project didn’t take off but the residential did.

Given that the evening’s proceedings were a workshop, no action was taken.