A proposal for a 7-story, 103-room hotel on Biltmore Avenue in Asheville was withdrawn Tuesday night just before Asheville City Council was prepared to vote on the project, and after three council members expressed their opposition.

City Council members in recent weeks have been stating their growing concern about the ongoing wave of hotel projects coming before them for final approval. Earlier this month, Mayor Esther Manheimer said she and her colleagues were struggling with the onslaught of proposals.

She said she had considered a moratorium on hotel construction, and suggested that City Council would be holding a work session to discuss how to balance hotel projects with their infrastructure demands and their impacts on the city’s budget. (City Council went on to vote 4-2 to grant approval for a 106-room Mainstay Suites on Brevard Road.) Tuesday night, Manheimer said she didn’t feel comfortable continuing to make decisions on individual hotel projects while not having a full grasp on that balance.

“I think we’re at a critical point,” Manheimer said.

The upscale extended-stay hotel, a Residence Inn hotel by Marriott, was proposed for a vacant lot in a part of town in need of a hotel, said attorney Wyatt Stevens, representing developer Pratik Bhakta. Stevens went on to explain that his client was a local resident with community support and a detailed plan to aid the city:

-The developer was prepared to give the Asheville Housing Authority a $125,000 donation for the construction of a playground at the Lee Walker Heights public housing complex, Stevens said. The Housing Authority is planning a major renovation of the housing complex, which is right across the street from the proposed hotel site at the corner of Biltmore Avenue and White Fawn Drive.

-The developer was prepared to donate $100,000 a year for five years to the city’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund.

-The developer was prepared to provide job training to residents of Lee Walker Heights.

-The developer was prepared to extend preferential hotel pricing to people with patients at Mission Hospital, and to people using the facility for troubled youth nearby.

-Community leaders Scott Dedman, executive director of Mountain Housing Opportunities, and Scott Rogers, executive director of the Asheville-Buncombe Community Christian Ministry, wrote letters in support of the project, Stevens said.

But council members’ opinions were split.

Council members Julie Mayfield and Vijay Kapoor both expressed support for the hotel.

“I think it fits a specific need for a part of town,” Kapoor said.  “I think what’s being offered is a clear net positive.”

Mayfield said “I’m with Vijay on this,” and said the developer had been responsive to Oakurst neighborhood concerns.

Councilman Brian Haynes said that “personally, a moratorium has begun,” especially regarding hotels in the city’s central business district or close to downtown. “We are above and beyond our need for hotels in this city,” Haynes said. “We need housing,” referring to the city’s dire need for more affordable housing options, he added.

“I want folks to think long and hard before they invest a lot of money in the next hotel project,” Haynes said. “It may very well get voted down.”

Councilman Keith Young noted that many city residents were expressing frustration with the growing number of city hotel projects when he was first elected in 2015. “I think it is time for work session that the mayor spoke about,” he said, adding that he planned to vote against the project.

During the public comment portion of the discussion about the hotel proposal, seven people spoke in favor of the project, while one person expressed opposition.

Tom Scheve, general manager of the Noble Kava cafe nearby, said the project would be “good for us, good for the community.”

City resident Matilda Bliss said she opposed the project, noting ongoing concerns regarding the lack of affordable housing. “Affordable housing goals are not being met.”

Neither Vice Mayor Gwen Wisler nor Councilwoman Sheneika Smith spoke during the hotel discussion.

14 Comments

  1. I’m crying for those poor, hardworking developers. Not. Residents don’t want more hotels. Council members are representing their constituents properly. Maybe NOT building a hotel won’t add more affordable housing but it will alleviate an already overburdened infrastructure that cannot handle the hotel boom. I’m glad our city council is listening.

  2. While I’m at it…..Anyone who says that locals don’t go downtown anymore might want to widen their perspective. Yes, weekends are full of tourists filling the sidewalks and causing traffic jams as they spend a lot of money supporting local restaurants and retail shops, many of which would not survive, or even exist to begin with, without the tourists. But during the week, tens of thousands of locals are downtown, at work in their office, eating lunch out, shopping or just going about their business. It’s still the central BUSINESS district, it’s not just a big tourist trap. It’s not a residential neighborhood either. Its downtown.

    So let the tourists take over downtown on the weekend. You locals, go shop and eat in Weaverville, along Merrimon Avenue, Tunnel Road, West Asheville or elsewhere.

    As far as Reginald’s comment that once it’s a hotel, that’s all it will ever be, is incorrect. The Battery Park Apartments, Vanderbilt apartments, the apartments above Malaprops, and the building formerly known as the Interstate Motel on Hiawassee St, were all hotels and have been successfully converted to housing, both affordable and moderately priced. Building functions change over time. Wicked Weed was a gas station. The Art Museum was a library. There’s plenty of evidence, just look around some.

  3. Who benefits from a moratorium on hotels? The existing hoteliers are more than happy to have the supply artificially limited by city council. Downtown hotel rooms are ridiculously expensive and will surely stay that way with Hayne’s “personal moratorium” in effect. The current hotel owners have to love this situation, 3.9 Million overnight stays, crazy high room rates and a city with a vocal minority that doesn’t want more hotels.
    Again, NOT ONE single unit of affordable housing will get built by a moratorium on hotels. City Council, you can’t have it both ways.
    Vijay Kapoor and Julie Mayfield should be commended for their good sense and for being rational leaders. The others, well…… stop letting loudmouths on social media guide your policy decisions.

  4. Who benefits from a moratorium on hotels? The existing hoteliers are more than happy to have the supply artificially limited by city council. Downtown hotel rooms are ridiculously expensive and will surely stay that way with Hayne’s “personal moratorium” in effect. The current hotel owners have to love this situation, 3.9 Million overnight stays, crazy high room rates and a city with a vocal minority that doesn’t want more hotels.

    Like Corbu#2 said, NOT ONE single unit of affordable housing will get built by a moratorium on hotels. City Council, you can’t have it both ways.

    Vijay Kapoor and Julie Mayfield should be commended for their good sense and for being rational leaders. The others, well…… stop letting loudmouths on social media guide your policy decisions.

  5. Louise Glickman says:

    This is long overdue. If you want a living, breathing example of extreme tourism, look at the steps that New Orleans has had to take since 1975 to insure that residents can continue to live in the French Quarter. It is now closed off to some traffic and all buses.

  6. I think city council members who were against this aren’t thinking clearly. The property isn’t in the downtown core, but very close to the hospital and is currently a vacant lot. No one’s being displaced. This developer was offering $500,000 over 5 years for affordable housing along with other community benefits. Not one unit of affordable housing will get built by turning this project down. I guess they want to EXTORT more money out of this local, hardworking developer that wants to expand his family’s business, and bring construction and permanent jobs to Asheville. And so what that some locals don’t go downtown anymore? Other parts of town are benefiting from that phenomenon.

  7. It’s about time! We are smothering in development that is not sustainable to the local people who loved this town when it still had some character to it..
    Yes, let’s hope it’s not too late…

  8. Ultimately the hotel is benefitting more than anyone else. One noteworthy comment is once a site is covered with a hotel use it invariably remains that way — disallowing a myriad of uses for the property. And with Biltmore and the mountain scenery here to stay, the growth will be stymied. And all we will have on main road property is hotels everywhere. We should have stopped this cycle long ago. We are ruining the original taste and feel of Asheville, and selling it out as a City. A controlled and timed inclusion of new hotwl rooms into the market has to happen. At the current pace we will leave nothing for the local communiry, who are as important as the tourist in the makeup of our community.

  9. Ultimately the hotel is benefitting more than anyone else. One notwworth comment is once a site is covered with a hotel use it invariably remains that way — disallowing a myriad of uses for the property. And with Biltmore and the mountain scenery here to stay, the growth will be stymied.

  10. Too bad the moratorium didn’t start earlier. For hotel chains that are based elsewhere and taking up downtown and filling it with tourists so that locals don’t even go downtown anymore is just bad for residents. However this was a local developer who sounded like they actually wanted to help out the city and contribute in ways the other hotels are clearly not. Too little too late.

  11. I am a resident of Oakhurst neighborhood (and President of the our neighborhood association) which is the neighborhood behind the proposed hotel development.

    The Oakhurst residents (including myself) who met with the developer and later attended the Planning & Zoning commission hearing HEARD NOTHING ABOUT ALL THESE CHARITABLE DONATIONS THE DEVELOPER WAS SUPPOSED TO BE MAKING at any of the meetings except for the last item which stated that the devs intended a special rate for Mission patients.

    This article is the first ANY of us have heard about these things. A cynical interpretation would be that this list of donations is only an attempt to create positive publicity after the Council’s NO vote. The developers are still free to make all those donations at any time.

    The developers were considerate with regards to many of our neighborhood’s concerns, and they readily agreed to make significant adjustments to their proposed building plan to accommodate a large number of our concerns. And we (the Oakhurst Neighborhood) very much appreciate that!!

  12. Good article. Very informative.

  13. Folks the Opportunity to grow like Asheville has is not going to come by again. So go ahead look the Growth in the face and say go away! We prefer vacant lots and underused space with litter and weeds. We prefer boarded up abandoned buildings over new used ones! We are concerned we are losing them to fast!??! SMDH!

  14. perhaps more hotels would reduce the demand for private short term rentals and therefore improve the availability of affordable housing…

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