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The future of the bay-front convention center and hotel in Chula Vista is up in the air tonight. An organized labor group sent out a press release this afternoon saying Gaylord Entertainment, the project’s developer, has reportedly pulled out of the deal.

But a Chula Vista city official said Gaylord has not withdrawn from the project.

In a news release, Tom Lemmon, business manager of the San Diego County Building & Construction Trades Council, said the company had “reportedly” withdrawn.

“We told Gaylord that we needed a commitment that the jobs would go to the taxpayers who are underwriting the development, and that Gaylord cannot ignore environmental laws. Gaylord refused,” Lemmon said in the release. “It is Gaylord’s choice not to develop this rare, unique coastal property. They are walking away because they are unwilling to commit to a project that works for our entire community; they have let a union-busting, anti-environment philosophy blind them to a good economic opportunity.”

But Denny Stone, Chula Vista’s economic development officer, said Gaylord had not pulled out. The situation, though, is “precarious right now,” Stone said.

“Unless something changes, this is heading south,” Stone said. “Something needs to change on this issue on contracting or they will pull out.”

Stone said that Gaylord’s board of directors had been scheduled to meet today to discuss the project’s future. But Stone did not know the outcome of that meeting.

The Gaylord development envisions 400,000 square feet of exhibit halls, ballrooms and meeting rooms on the waterfront. The complex’s 1,500-room hotel would be among the largest in the county.

At issue is who is hired to work on the project’s construction. In a Friday memo to the Chula Vista City Council, Stone said Gaylord’s estimates showed that organized labor’s insistence on an “extraordinarily competitive bidding process that would effectively exclude non-union contractors and workers from the project” could drive up the project’s cost by $50 million to $75 million,

Stone suggested that the union’s press release may have been a negotiating tactic. Stone said he received the release while meeting with union officials today.

“Press releases like that that are somewhat inflammatory don’t help the process,” Stone said.

Neither labor officials nor Gaylord officials could immediately be reached for comment. Stay tuned, we’ll have more on this tonight.

ROB DAVIS

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