The Newport Beach City Council has decided that the question of whether to convert a waterfront parcel on Balboa Peninsula to a boutique resort or a public park should be resolved by voters. A 56-unit mobile home park has operated for years at the city-owned site overlooking Newport Bay, and the city has long debated how to put the land to better use.
On a 4-3 vote Tuesday, the council approved putting the proposal for the 110-room Marinapark resort on the Nov. 2 ballot.
The parcel is one of the last pieces of coastal property in the city earmarked for recreation and open space, but since 1999 city officials have considered a proposal to lease the land to a hotel developer.
Such a project requires an amendment to the general plan and changing the land use for the property from recreational and environmental open space to recreation and marine commercial.
Developer Stephen Sutherland has said that besides the five-acre resort, he would construct a $2.5-million Girl Scout building, a community center and tennis courts.
But hotel critics say the land is too important as parkland to be lost to commercial development.
The site "is a public community asset," said Tom Billings, spokesman for Protect Our Parks, a group opposed to the hotel. "It's the last waterfront beach park of its kind on the Balboa Peninsula.
"If this is allowed to happen, we will lose precious public parkland and open space that can never be replaced."
Billings said that the entire eight acres should be developed for the public benefit.
"This eight-acre site is zoned recreation and open space," Billings said. "The whole process should never have been started by the city where they even considered entering into an agreement" for a hotel.
One park proposal calls for an aquatics center, nautical museum, boat launch, storage area for kayaks, canoes and small sailboats, tennis courts and parkland.