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Site of abandoned Placerville hotel could see construction

Except for a few concerns about parking and noise pollution, community members overwhelmingly supported a proposed 106-room hotel development at the Placerville Planning Commission meeting on Jan. 4.

The Mackinaw Hotel would be built at 3001 Jacquier Road, at the corner of Smith Flat and Jacquier Roads in Placerville – a site where the concrete foundation still stands after being poured for a previously proposed hotel some 18 years ago.

Planning commissioners reviewed a review of the site plan and waiver requests from plaintiff Apple Hill Hospitality LLC and developer Eat.Drink.Sleep Brett Miller. Variance requests include a building height that would exceed the permitted 40 feet by 6 feet 7 inches and an increase in permitted compact parking spaces.

Director of Development Services Pierre Rivas gave a little history lesson on the site. Various proposed developments have been approved in the past, including in 1986 a 100-room hotel and restaurant; in 1988, a gas station, a convenience store, a 104-room hotel and Andersen’s Pea Soup; in 1997, a North Point travel center, gas station and car wash; in 2004, the Gateway Hotel or Holiday Inn Express with 102 rooms; and in 2017, the 102-room Hampton Inn and Suites.

The Gateway Hotel project has brought grading, foundations and road improvements at the location, but was opposed by area residents, leading to a settlement, according to Rivas. The project then became financially insolvent and was abandoned.

Development has not yet been completed on the site, which today contains underground networks behind a mesh fence, two concrete slabs and a temporary retention basin.

Eat.Drink.Sleep Vice President Steve Smith, who presented the project to the commissioners, was joined by the hospitality and development company’s president, Brett Miller.

Eat.Drink.Sleep is based in San Diego and is looking to expand to Placerville.

“It has to be something that’s great for the community, great for longevity and financial viability,” Smith said.

Renders shared by Smith revealed the hotel’s proposed name.

“You kind of threw us here with the Mackinaw name,” Commissioner John List said. “Can you give us the context of this choice?”

“Snowshoe Thompson wore a mackinaw wool jacket,” Miller said. “In the 1920s and 1930s, mackinaw wool was the nicest, warmest woolen jacket you could have.”

They plan to have mackinaw blankets at the foot of each bed.

Commissioner Michael Frenn asked: “What is your plan for using local labour?

“As much as possible,” Smith replied. “We hire local people and train them to become our leaders on the property.”

Commissioners have expressed concern over the parking allowance, increasing compact parking spaces from 20% to 44%. Smith assured the marshals that they were ready to do whatever was necessary to allow enough space for large vehicles and compact vehicles.

Miller voiced those concerns, reminding the commissioners that the parking allowance had been approved for one of the previous developments.

“I’ve been waiting for this day for almost 22 years,” said Laurel Brent-Bumb, chief executive of the Chamber of Commerce, citing her tenure at the chamber. “We hope you will support the plaintiff and the plaintiff’s waiver requests.”

County resident and developer himself, Leonard Grado has extolled the virtues of the region’s boutique hotels. Local improvement was also on his mind.

“Upper Broadway needs development of this nature,” he said. “It’s literally about to fall into greater disrepair, if you will.”

Placerville resident John Clerici offered clarification on the pronunciation of Jacquier Road (jake-way) before listing the potential benefits of project approval.

“The project has the potential to reinvent a stay in the foothills,” he said. “Turn what is, by and large, drive-through tourism into a destination.”

John Conforti, owner of Smith Flat House and several properties in the area, offered his support for the project. “I really like the consideration these guys put into it,” he said.

Vice President Nicole Gotberg clarified that the requested height difference of an additional 6 feet 7 inches remains less than that of the adjacent freeway.

A motion has been drafted to require developers to bring back a revised site plan as directed by the commission, including the parking plan.

Commissioner Kristine Kiehne introduced the motion and Commissioner List introduced the second. The motion is adopted unanimously. President Amy Lepper reminded the public of the 10-day calendar appeal period. Appeals of the commission’s decision may be made through the Town Clerk of Placerville.

The 106-room Mackinaw Hotel, slated to open in late 2023, features rooftop gathering space, 80 square meters of dedicated dining space, 3,000 square feet of meeting space and event space and an additional 3,000 square feet of versatile outdoor space.

The hotel’s design is modern mountain and will reflect the region’s alpine setting with traditional stone and wood materials that will maintain a sense of place, according to a statement from Miller.

“We look forward to creating a welcoming gathering place for El Dorado County visitors and locals alike,” Miller said.