By: Sharon Aron Baron
Why did the City make a motion to reestablish hotel use in certain zoning districts which was accidentally omitted in 2005, and why all of a sudden was this so important to change ten years later?
At the workshop on April 6, staff recommended correcting an error omitting hotel use in the B-2 and B-3 zoning districts, and according to Community Development Director Maxine Calloway “recent inquiries” triggered them to address this now.
What were those recent inquiries?
Before we get to those, during the workshop and commission meeting they never were clear with the public why they needed to put the word “hotel” back into these zoning districts. Not one person in the audience, nor did media question why, even though this discussion went on for sometime.
It finally ended the following Wednesday with a vote going forward with Dressler, Placko, Glasser and Bushnell voting yes and Gomez voting no.
This is not to be confused with the request for a hotel that Woodmont club owner Mark Schmidt wanted for his new expansion plan which was on the agenda that same day which was refused by the commission.
So back to the ordinance: Why did staff need to fix this 10 year-old omission?
The City Manager is proposing a hotel for Colony West Country Club right near the corner of Pine Island Road and McNab in between the Walgreens and Colony West. This is the City owned golf club whose revenue is still short of budget. And on the same day, Mark Schmidt over at Woodmont requested a hotel at his course, but because the commission was tired of the complaints about his inability to keep up the conditions of the course, they wouldn’t hear of it. Even if it was pristine over there I’d find it hard to believe they would have approved his request for a hotel over there.
Especially while they were negotiating a deal over at the City-owned Colony West.
Whether or not a hotel at the site is, or isn’t a good idea, isn’t what I’m going to debate here. What I find odd is the way the commission kept this whole thing under wraps during the workshop on April 6, and the commission meeting on April 8. At no time during these meetings did Mayor Dressler or the City Manager say, “We are considering a new hotel for Colony West, but first we have to change an issue with the zoning.”
In fact, all of the commissioners were all vague on this issue not even saying what this whole ordinance was for even though they received at least three emails from the City Manager about the deal!
In one email, City Manager Michael Cernech writes to the commission back in January that they are negotiating a letter of intent with a hotel developer to sell 2.7 acres of City property between the clubhouse and the Walgreens next door to it for around a 100+ room hotel for the club.
“Our understanding is the hotel brand will be from the Intercontinental Group – so no Motel 6. We have developed a structure for the LOI (letter of intent) jointly with the hotel developer and have a meeting set to finalize the LOI the second week in February.
In February, Cernech was happy that they were close to a final draft on the letter of intent and he would be signing it very soon. He said that they have confirmed with the broker that the franchisee is committed and and they had confirmed with the InterContinental Group (ICG) the franchisee has been approved for a Holiday Inn Express.
“ICG also confirmed for us they believe HIE will do very well at that location as an extended stay business traveler hotel.”
In March he told the commission in an email that they have negotiated a letter of intent but have not yet been able to agree on a price.
“Through our hospitality consultant we have validated our thinking about a hotel there and if this deal falls through we have a good chance to pursue another with a different developer. We are struggling to reach agreement on the price of the land.”
So they have a deal in the works – possibly with Holiday Inn Express with an unknown price. I’ve reached out to the City Manager for comment and so far I haven’t heard back. I’ve also reached out to Vice Mayor Michelle Gomez on why she voted no on the change in ordinance and will keep you posted once I hear.