At Wednesday night’s Old Town Goleta Project Area Committee meeting, county planners proposed roundabouts on Hollister Avenue to get people into Old Town Goleta and approved designs for a new hotel to keep them there.

For years, proponents of Goleta’s Old Town revitalization project have pushed construction of two stoplights on Highway 217, hoping they would increase traffic in the area and thereby stimulate the declining economy in Old Town. The proposal met serious opposition from UCSB, which has pressured Santa Barbara County to keep the 217 a stoplight-free highway to the university.

At the PAC meeting, county planners proposed an alternate means of increasing traffic flow to the area: construction of roundabouts at intersections along Hollister.

County redevelopment planner Matt Dobberteen said inserting roundabouts would be a complicated project and involve engineering, safety and circulation performance testing before construction.

“We have to check the hard science on this thing and make sure that this concept that looks good on paper can move cars and bikes safely,” he said.

The PAC will continue to discuss ideas that would increase traffic to Old Town via the 217. County planners said they hope to complete the project by 2007. At the March 25 Goleta City Council meeting, Dobberteen will present a potential timeline for the 217 project.

The PAC also passed a motion to approve a Spanish-Mediterranean style elevation for the proposed 115-room Hampton Inn at 5665 Hollister Ave. The hotel will be part of the Sanders Hotel and Residential Project, which consists of 38 condominiums and a 1,500 square foot commercial pedestrian promenade complex. The project will be developed in accordance with a provision in the Goleta building moratorium, passed Feb. 11, which permits building in the Old Town area.

The Sanders project will undergo three stages of design review by the County Board of Architectural Review, the Planning Commission and the PAC.

Murill Forrester, a Goleta resident and employee of Best Western South Coast Inn, said she was surprised the PAC focused on the aesthetics of the building rather than the parking.

“They’re putting in a 115-room hotel and not giving adequate parking for the employees and the guests. Why are they putting a hotel there?” she said. “We’ve got the Goleta Union School District considering closing schools because there isn’t enough affordable housing in the area. Why don’t we put homes in there so the average person can live there? Where are they going to park – on the side streets?”