Hotel, bears, AirBNB on Three Rivers meeting agenda

A proposed 185-room hotel complex will be up for discussion when District 1 County Supervisor Kuyler Crocker hosts a town hall meeting Wednesday, July 24 in Three Rivers.

The meeting–which will also focus on short-term vacation rentals, public restrooms and bear-proof trash containers–is scheduled for 6pm in the Three Rivers Memorial Building, 43490 Sierra Drive.

“The Three Rivers hotel project will be one of the items we’ll be discussing,” Crocker said. “We’re also planning on discussing short-term vacation rentals and providing an update on where we’re at with county policy. It’s something the supervisors have looked at in the past, and I’m hoping to have some more concrete information the community can review and look at.”

However, the discussion will not be limited to those four subjects.

“It’s also kind of free-for-all,” Crocker said. “So, if there’s other items people want to hear about, want to know about, then they can discuss those.”

Hotel to be Hot Topic

Yet the development of a complex of three hotels on a site east of Sierra Drive (Highway 198) on Old Three Rivers Road will likely be the main topic of conversation. The plan–put forward by Guatam and Hitesh Patel of the Pleasanton-based Patel Group–has become a point of contention among residents of the area.

“Three Rivers is a very engaged community. It’s a community that likes to get involved in planning processes,” Crocker said. “With this particular developer, this is not the first time he has been interested in building in Three Rivers.”

The project, which would be completed over a three-year period, has been in the works for several years. Originally, plans called for a much different development at a site along the Kaweah River adjacent to the Three Rivers Post Office.

“The community saw that that plan had some major challenges, one being that it was proposed in a flood plain, and the developer heard from that,” Crocker said.

The original site for the project flooded in 2017, causing Patel Group to reconsider.

“Ultimately, he went through a process to try and look for a different site. He knew that wasn’t going to work, and that’s where we’re at today is that he found a suitable site,” Crocker said. “Not exactly the same vision. It’s a different concept, but (Patel Group) still thought Three Rivers was a good spot to do work, to do business.”

Addressing Concerns

Crocker hopes the town hall meeting will provide residents who will have to live alongside the hotel complex a forum for discussing any possible issues surrounding the development.

“As far as I’m concerned, I represent Three Rivers area,” he said. “This is something that’s of concern to them, and I want to make sure they have an opportunity to share their thoughts. They can get informed about it, but if they have input or insight, then I want to hear from them.”

That said, the county has little discretion in how the land Patel Group has purchased for its project is developed, as long as its design plans meet long-established rules and guidelines.

“It is zoned properly,” said Crocker. “It has been zoned for decades for this purpose.”

How the future tax revenue generated by the hotel will be used, however, has not yet been decided.

“Theoretically, there could be some discretionary acts, the transitory occupancy rebates as far as some benefit,” Crocker said.

Patel Group On-Hand

Representatives of the Patel Group will attend the meeting to discuss their plans.

“After hearing public input, they (Patel Group) still have an opportunity that they can incorporate, perhaps, some of the design elements,” Crocker said. “In the past, that was one of the things that a previous iteration of this on a different site, that was something they were concerned with, as far as incorporating different design elements that would make more sense as far as what a group of community members thought would be good for Three Rivers.”

Crocker said that while the county can do little to change to Patel Group’s plans, the developers themselves may be willing to alter them should valid concerns be raised.

“There’s not a whole lot (of control over the development) as far as the county’s concerned, but that doesn’t mean that the developer couldn’t do something voluntarily,” he said.

County Staff Will Attend

Staff from various county agencies will attend the town hall meeting, lending their expertise.

“On the different topics, I want to make sure we have people who can speak specifically to those particular areas,” Crocker said. “So we’ll have planning folks from our Planning Department, from Resource Management Agency, specifically to talk about if there’s any zoning questions, if there’s any questions as far as the actual buildings. Those staff can also talk about the short-term vacation rentals policy.”

Some property owners in Three Rivers have begun renting to vacationers for short periods, using companies such as AirBNB. The issue has apparently caused concern for those who live in the area year-round.

Staff from the county’s Solid Waste Department will also attend the town hall to answer questions about bear-proof trash receptacles. The county hopes to avoid both short- and long-term problems with bears becoming regular dumpster divers.

“One, it’s a nuisance, but, two, once they get the taste for the trash and start getting into it, you can remove them, but ultimately there’s a long-term impact where they get that taste and there’s times they have to be put down because they continue to go after trash and become problem animals,” Crocker said. “So the idea is to avoid getting to that point, so that they don’t get into the trash and become that type of nuisance.”

Public Restroom Update

Crocker will also be providing an update on plans to construct public restrooms at the Three Rivers Historical Museum.

“It’s been a year plus as far as when we got approval,” Crocker said. “I got approval from my fellow Board members to jumpstart the project with $250,000. The intent was we were supposed to open within a few months. We hit some snags, and we’re still going through the RFP (request for proposals) process to get bidders.”

More than two million people visit Sequoia National Park each season, and the local infrastructure simply can’t handle the demand, according to Crocker.

“There’s many septic systems, and it’s something local businesses really can’t handle,” he said. “So having something that’s available, that’s tied in with the Sequoia Shuttle when folks are coming up after a stop in Visalia or coming down the hill after already being up in the park was something that was very important to the community and very important to me.”

For more information about the town hall meeting, email [email protected] or call (559) 636-5000.

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