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By Alex Groves 

San Juan Capistrano’s Design Review Committee looked at proposed changes to the planned Plaza Banderas Hotel that included moving the location of the pool, moving the location of a parking area and making modifications to an entry driveway during its July 19 meeting.

The committee voted to send the project on to the Planning Commission for further review following a presentation by project applicant Dan Friess and comments by several public speakers.

According to a city staff report, the specific modifications included moving the swimming pool from the east side of the building to the south side; moving the parking area further southward; and splitting the main entry driveway for easier traffic flow.

Three people spoke in regard to the project, including Gretchen Stroscher Thomson. Thomson, the previous owner of the Hotel Banderas site, claimed she still owns a half-acre portion of land the modified project entrance and some parking spaces would cut through. She said that she had sold other portions of land to developer Bill Griffith, but not that one.

“Three years ago, we offered to sell this property to Mr. Griffith and he did not respond to our offer,” Thomson said during the meeting. “We have tried subsequently to engage him in conversation regarding this property and he has not done so. This matter can be solved and resolved very quickly if Mr. Griffith will come to the table and meet with the city and with (Stroscher Capistrano, LLC).”

In an interview with The Dispatch, Thomson said her grandmother gave the state a portion of land for an easement for Ortega Highway.

“Our contention is that once that was abandoned in the realignment of Ortega and it created approximately a half-acre… and that half acre is ours,” she said.

Friess acknowledged during the meeting that a question had been raised about the land’s ownership.

“We are aware of the issues and we are working through them,” he said. “I don’t feel that tonight is the night, that this is the forum to deal with legal issues and we anticipate having those addressed prior to planning commission.”

The Planning Commission will get final approval of the proposed project modifications, according to Principal Planner David Contreras.

Contreras said that before the project makes its way to the planning commission, the staff will review and determine who owns the land in question.

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