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Thursday, October 03, 2013, 08:17 am PT (11:17 am ET)

Apple's 'spaceship' campus clears another regulatory hurdle on way to breaking ground

Cupertino's planning commission gave Apple's new corporate campus the go-ahead this week, clearing the way for a final vote on the project by the Cupertino City Council later in October.

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Following a "shared study session" with members of the public Tuesday night, the city of Cupertino's planning commission voted on Wednesday to approve Apple's Campus 2 plans, according to the San Jose Mercury News. The project's fate now shifts into the hands of the Cupertino City Council, which is widely expected to grant final approval at an Oct. 15 meeting.

The main topic of discussion Wednesday was Apple's plan to install three left turn lanes on the exit from the new campus towards Interstate 280. The city is worried that employees leaving the facility may drive erratically as they try to position themselves in the correct lanes to merge onto the interstate.

Apple and the commission agreed to a mitigation plan in which both parties will monitor the roadway near that exit for traffic violations for a period of nine months. An additional wrinkle proposed by the city, which would have seen Apple pay a $500 fine for each violation, was not endorsed by the commission.

Apple's Director of Real Estate and Facilities, Dan Whisenhunt, was on hand for the meeting and briefed the commissioners on the project. During his presentation, which CNET reports contained a video featuring lead architect Norman Foster, Whisenhunt called the existing development on the site, a former HP campus, "outdated buildings in a sea of asphalt."

Apple's Campus 2 plans call for the HP buildings to be razed and 80 percent of the roughly 150 acre plot returned to native grassland with more than 6,000 trees. Whisenhunt noted that construction could be finished in as little as 32 months, and that the company aims to move in as soon as 2016.

The Campus 2 project was first presented in 2011 by late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs in what would turn out to be his last public appearance. Apple's co-founder said at the time that he believed Apple could "have a shot at building the best office building in the world. I think it could be that good."

The project's cost has since ballooned from its original $3 billion price tag to more than $5 billion and its initial timeline, with completion expected in 2015, is behind by more than a year.