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Developer to fight city in court over hotel denial; city adds future hurdles
Monday, 06 March 2017 12:32

From Staff Reports

Asheville City Council likely will be challenged in court. a Raleigh developer said, after its recent 7-0 decision to turn down his company’s request for a permit to construct an eight-story, $24 million hotel downtown.

Shaunak Patel, president of Park Hospitality Group, was quoted in the Asheville Citizen-Times in late January as saying that he has “every intent to push this project forward.”

In the aftermath, council members voted 7-0 on Feb. 14 to raise the level of scrutiny for practically any new hotel in the city via a requirement that any proposed hotel with more than 20 rooms must come before them for approval.

The Feb. 14 action followed critical pushback from a number of citizens who have complained that the hotels — despite generating millions in dollars  — are changing the city for the worse and are putting unfair burdens on local taxpayers.

Patel said he is disappointed with council’s decision on Jan. 24 to deny the permit to build the 185-room Embass y Suites at 192 Haywood Road in northwestern downtown.

“Last night, we were supported by some of the most respected professionals in the industry, along with members of the community. We want to thank each one of them for coming out and supporting us,” he wrote in the email to the AC-T.

Council’s Jan. 24 denial was unprecedented, as it was the first permit denial in the midst of a $187 million construction boom in which a dozen large hotels either were built or planned from 2009 to 2018. 

However, a number of citizens have expressed opposition to the hotels — and that continued criticism, which may impact council as an election looms in November.

Patel told the AC-T that his company was “in talks with our counsel.” 

Parks Hospitality was represented at the Jan. 24 hearing by former city attorney Bob Ozst.

Council held a three-hour hearing on the hotel proposal before voting unanimously against it. Opponents cited concerns about parking, traffic and a high concentration of hotels in the northwest area of downtown. It would have been built on the former site of the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office, adjoining the new $14 million Hyatt Place and the Hotel Indigo.

Council’s vote bucked the recommendations of the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce, Grove Arcade, as well as two city boards that examine and make recommendations on such projects. 

Also speaking for the hotel was former vice mayor Jan Davis, who opened a tire store on the west side of downtown 30 years ago.

That part of downtown was more viable when he opened his tire store three decades ago than it is today, Davis contended.

Prior to council’s Feb. 14 decision to add future hurdles for downtown hotel approval, only the largest lodging facilities came before the elected body. All others needed approval — at most — from the Asheville Planning and Zoning Commission, an appointed body.

Under the previous rules, many projects involved in the downtown hotel construction boom, which is approaching $200 million, were not reviewed by council.

“I’ve been waiting a long time to vote on this, and I’m ready,” Councilman Brian Haynes, the most outspoken critic of the hotel boom, said during the Feb. 14 meeting.

Along with tightening the hotel approval process, council also passed rules that would require its approval for other large projects — beyond hotels — in the downtown area.

In another 7-0 vote, council increased requirements for developers to notify nearby residents and landowners about proposed projects.

A move by Councilwoman Julie Mayfield to lessen — slightly — the number of hotels to be reviewed by council failed to receive backing from other council members. Mayfield suggested a threshhold of 50 rooms for council review.



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