City Council pushes back as Orchid Tree project developer appears to offer a take it or leave it deal

Richard Weintraub was back in front of elected officials Thursday evening, seeking approval of five new amendments to an existing agreement. He left with a scolding.
The developer of a hotel project at the site of the former Orchid Tree Inn has worked to alleviate many concerns about the property, but still hasn’t broken ground.

Seeking more concessions he claims are needed in order to move ahead with construction of a major hotel project in the heart of downtown, a developer got a lesson in manners instead on Thursday evening.

Richard Weintraub, the backer of the Orchid Tree Resort and Spa at the intersection of West Baristo and South Belardo roads first proposed in 2014, has successfully lobbied for multiple extensions at City Hall. In recent years, however, patience has been wearing thin.

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The Palm Springs City Council approved an amended agreement with Weintraub in November 2021, allowing the completion of the project to be pushed out to April 2025. The vote came with orders that he begin securing the property and removing crumbling buildings.  In 2022, the city’s Planning Commission denied his request for additional amendments, with one member suggesting the project be brought into receivership. The City Council later reversed that decision on appeal.

Weintraub was back in front of the City Council Thursday evening, seeking approval of five new amendments to the agreement. Among them were requests to receive 100% of the future property’s transient occupancy tax (TOT) for the first 10 years of operation and a three-year delay in paying city fees. In exchange, Weintraub said he would provide a $1 million security deposit.

During deliberation of the request, however, Weintraub dodged a direct question from Councilmember Ron deHarte, who asked if he was delivering an “all or none” proposal. The developer also implied that the project should be given special consideration because it would be part of the exclusive Auberge Resorts collection.

Weintraub’s behavior didn’t sit well with members of the council. They passed on voting on the amendments and instead directed city staff to work with the developer in an attempt to move the project forward, but not at the city’s expense.

“What’s before us is unacceptable,” said Mayor Grace Garner. “The tone is unacceptable. The conversations we’re having are unacceptable. I would love to have an Auberge, but I would also like to have some respect shown to this council.”


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