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Resort plan grows from orchard

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WMB Architects/courtesy art

This artist's rendering provided by WMB Architects shows the proposed AVA Resort and Spa events center.

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Diede Construction Inc. has proposed building an ambitious $30 million resort and spa along Armstrong Road and Highway 99 on land it now owns.

Construction on the upscale 50-room hotel would begin in three to five years. The resort would include a restaurant, 8,000-square-foot event center, 10,000-square-foot wine storage cellar, cafe bistro, shops, fruit stand, wine tasting suites and spa.

The proposal has stirred some concerns among neighboring residents regarding noise and congestion.

The proposed AVA Resort & Spa would sit on 6.49 acres that are currently occupied by a large cherry orchard, and Diede leaders believe it could be key to promoting the nearby Micke Grove Regional Park.

"Micke Grove is the jewel of San Joaquin County, and it's not being well-utilized," said John Anderson, Diede's senior vice president. "We want to promote Micke Grove from the hotel, and we want to make sure that people who are attending events there can stay overnight."

Diede will present its plan to the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors on April 30, hoping the county will rezone the land when it finalizes the general plan in late fall or early winter.

It will be the first of many steps toward building the resort, Anderson said.

He added that the hotel would be similar to Wine & Roses in Lodi, but more centrally located within San Joaquin County.

The resort will have its own water and sewer system, he said.

Suites would cost $250 to $450, and the resort could hold private events, including wine-tasting events hosted by local wineries. It will also create approximately 150 jobs, Anderson said.

"The whole thing is to have people come (to the hotel) and spend two or three days, and be able to go out to the Lodi appellation for wine tasting and golfing and Micke Grove," Anderson said.

But homeowners surrounding the proposed site are concerned that a luxury resort would alter their rural neighborhood.

"Who would like to have a hotel built across the street from your house?" said Dennis Regan, whose home sits directly across from the resort's proposed entrance along Armstrong Road. "Plus two restaurants, an event center for weddings and parties, a farmers market and a spa. I don't think that is why you choose your neighborhood, nor did I."

While Regan has voiced his concerns with Diede, others have circulated a petition in opposition to the development, and hope to convince the Board of Supervisors not to rezone the agricultural land to commercial.

Regan, whose neighborhood is largely surrounded by farmland, is also worried about the noise and traffic a resort would bring.

"This project would create much more traffic for an overpass and road that were designed for 1950s traffic," Regan said. "Wedding and events of 200 to 300 people, plus events with live music in late evenings — how much noise can we take?"

Anderson said the resort won't hold concerts in the outdoor event area, only music to generate ambiance. All the private events will be held either indoors or in the back of the complex, he said.

In addition, several rows of cherry trees will separate the resort from a neighboring home.

Anderson said one of the resort's greatest values would be to promote Micke Grove, located half a mile from the proposed site.

The regional park features a golf course, zoo, historical museum and three-acre lake.

"We'll be more successful because of Micke Grove," Anderson said. "And as a result, because of our complex, we'll complement Micke Grove and make Micke Grove more successful."

Wayne Craig, first vice president of the Zoological Society at Micke Grove, said the park is hoping to expand, and a nearby resort would help that effort.

"We're creating a new marketing campaign to let people know it's there, because it's been behind the scenes for a while," he said. "Our development is full-speed ahead, so any joint development would help that momentum."

The zoo currently occupies five acres, but Craig said there's room to expand it to 15 acres.

"The hotel will probably attract a lot of out-of-the-area tourists, which never hurts," he said. "Any development near the park would be very helpful and make people aware of our assets."

If the Board of Supervisors rezones the land, Diede, which owns and operates five hotels in California, will begin researching the resort's impact on traffic, soil conditions and more.

Regan said if the land is rezoned, he'll continue fighting the development.

"Building a complex like this in our area will greatly reduce the value of our properties," Regan said. "If they want to try and rezone, let them do it on their own dime and not the county taxpayer under the new general plan."

But Anderson believes many tourists should enjoy the land and that the county would benefit greatly from the resort.

"It would be a little naive to think you have one of the largest jewels in the San Joaquin Valley and you're never going to be impacted," Anderson said. "From my position, does one neighbor or four neighbors represent the whole county's interest?"

Contact reporter Kristopher Anderson at krisa@lodinews.com.

5 images

WMB Architects/courtesy art

This artist's rendering provided by WMB Architects shows the proposed AVA Resort and Spa events center.

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