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Long-delayed Auburn hotel plan stays alive

County extension of permits wins Planning Commission OK
By: Gus Thomson, Reporter/Columnist
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Overgrown with star thistle and spindly oak saplings, the site of a long-delayed 142-room hotel north of Auburn is a dream that won’t die.
Hoss Bozorgzad, an Auburn entrepreneur who has been working on the original Hill Top Center project since its beginning more than a half-dozen years ago, has contended with a Chapter 11 bankruptcy and banks unwilling to finance the multimillion-dollar construction project.
But Bozorgzad has continued to keep the project alive through a recession and has won a bid to extend Placer County permits granted in 2008 that were due to expire this month.
Bozorgzad will work with a group of new investors now owning the 7.5-acre site to build the 93,000-square-foot Hill Top Center complex on a cliffside overlooking Interstate 80 in Bowman.
The extension gives Bozorgzad’s group another two years to pull construction permits on an ambitious project that includes stores and restaurant space, underground parking and an art gallery to augment drop-dead-gorgeous views of the Sierra Nevada.
Working with Bozorgzad is the Shiraz Development real estate development group of Walnut Creek, Los Gatos orthopedist Norman Nedde and James and Carol Babcock.
Bozorgzad told planning commissioners, during a hearing Sept. 25 to extend a conditional use permit and environmental approvals, that time and money continue to be the needed commodities. Convincing banks that the project can be financed is one key piece in the puzzle that hasn’t materialized yet, he said.
“The team changed,” Bozorgzad said. “I’m the constant. We have a team committed to bring this to the market and bring to this community. Were working with the county, and everybody feels it’s still a valuable project. We just need more time.”
The extension will now run until Sept. 25, 2016. The project is about 900 feet north of the Bowman Road-Luther Road intersection.
Nearby resident Robert Chalfant objected to the extension, as did members of the Channel Hill Environmental Coalition who had fought the original approvals given in 2008. Chalfant said that the project needed to analyze issues like noise levels and dust during construction because they were inadequately reviewed six years ago.
Rex Addison also expressed opposition. He lives nearby on Cleary Drive.
“We would ask that you consider a better use of the land,” Addison stated in a letter to the commission. “It already has lots of wildlife on it – deer, birds, raccoon and turkeys. A park or wildlife learning center would benefit the community. This hotel will benefit a handful of investors (and) there are already five or six hotels in the area that always have vacancies.”
Planning Commissioner Richard Roccucci of Roseville said the main issue wasn’t about past approvals but whether changes since then would warrant another review. The staff report said the original planning documents were still adequate,