SANTA ROSA, Calif. — The city of Fort Bragg has been ordered by a Mendocino County judge to permit a developer to open a hotel that has been empty since it was completed 15 months ago.
Local officials said the hotel was too tall and refused to issue an occupancy permit.
"The structure exists and no public benefit will be gained by requiring it to remain vacant," Superior Court Judge Conrad Cox ruled Tuesday.
He said neither the city nor the state can enforce a disputed height regulation. The state Coastal Commission rallied behind the city after developer Dominic Affinito sued Fort Bragg in January.
The fight over the hotel has cost the parties more than $1 million in legal fees and lost tax revenue. It became a major issue in City Council elections and provoked a confrontation after which Affinito was charged with criminally battering Councilman Dan Gjerde.
Attorneys for the city and the state said they are reviewing Cox's decision.
"At first glance, we think the court erred in regard to the height limit issue," said state Deputy Atty. Gen. Joseph Rusconi. "But we're going to have to review the issue with the Coastal Commission staff."
The city won on a few issues, as the court ordered Affinito to comply with some disputed design requirements, including roofing and exterior color.