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J.R. Sanchez operates a front loader last year at construction site of Oakhurst's three new hotels, which are expected to open later this year (photo by George Lurie)

Oakhurst Hotel Project ‘Moving Along;’ Still no Timeline for Completion

OAKHURST — A row of three new, nationally branded hotels under construction since 2013 on Highway 41 in Oakhurst appear to be finally nearing completion.

When contacted this week, developer Paul Patel said the project “is going good.”

But Patel, who also owns the Oakhurst Comfort Inn, declined to say when the three new hotels might be open for business. On Monday, he also declined to answer any other questions about the project.

“When it’s going to open, everybody will know,” Patel said. “This is not a news story. There are more important things for the news to report on.”

The three hotels — a Holiday Inn Express, Hampton Inn and Fairfield Inn — will each have 108 guest rooms.

The northernmost hotel — the Holiday Inn Express — is expected to be completed first, according to J.R. Sanchez, superintendent at the construction site.

Drywall was going up in the interiors of all three hotels this week, Sanchez said, while stucco and stone exterior finish work was also well underway. Furniture and fixtures are currently sitting in a row of shipping containers along Highway 41.

“If we can get the rain to give us a break, we should be able to start exterior grading work this week,” Sanchez said.

The county’s main sewer line still must be be expanded “to absorb the three new hotels and give them service,” said Madera County Public Works Director Ahmad Alkhayyat.

Caltrans has already signed off on the expansion, Alkhayyat said, and the project is “going out for bid this month. We’re finalizing plans as we speak and hoping to begin construction in June,” he said.

According to the Visit Yosemite | Madera County, more than 1.5 million tourists come to the area each year — most during the summer months.

The addition of 325 new rooms will be a big boost to Oakhurst’s hotel/motel room inventory. The town currently has slightly less than 1,000 hotel and motel rooms — a fact that keeps local Airbnb business booming.

Patel says he has encountered a number of obstacles since his ambitious hotel project was first approved in 2013. When last he agreed to be interviewed by SNO back in 2015, he blamed the county’s former chief building inspector for the delays.

But Matthew Treber, community and economic development director for Madera County, said the hotel project has made “significant progress in the last few years.”

“Things have been going pretty smoothly,” Treber said. “There’s still a lot of work left to do but I guess it’s possible guests might be checking in by the end of the year.”

Madera County’s Deputy Director of Building and Fire Safety Deborah Mahler is now overseeing “all of the final inspections” the developer needs in order to gain a certificate of occupancy, Treber said.

“They’re moving along quite nicely,” Mahler said this week. “But the sewer line is still a big one. We can’t certify them until we can flush all the toilets.”

Mahler said Patel “hasn’t said anything to us” about a timetable for finishing the project. “Honestly, at this point, the last estimate I heard was the summer of 2014.”

To expedite inspection progress, Treber said the county had been using a private, Fresno-based engineering firm but in recent months Mahler and her team”have taken a more active role.”

To date, according to Treber, the county has collected $255,000 in project-related permit fees from the developer.

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