Asheville City Council voted 6-1 on Tuesday night to give the go-ahead for the construction of a new 86-room hotel at 1500 Tunnel Road in East Asheville. Council Vice Mayor Gwen Wisler was the lone no vote.
The Hotel Krish proposal from hotelier H.P. Patel is the first to come before City Council under new regulations that it approved in February, which require, in part, that any hotel project proposing 20 rooms or more come before them for review.
The new rules were a clear response to growing public concern about the impact of the city’s tourism trade, which has seen a dramatic upswing in recent years. With that increase in tourism has come a hotel-building boom, especially in the city’s central business district.
Tuesday night’s hotel proposal differed in significant ways from the large hotels under construction right now in downtown. Hotel Krish is small, with just 86 rooms, and was proposed for a site that was once the location of another hotel that was eventually demolished.
Patel, the developer, is an Asheville resident who’s been doing business in town for decades. He told City Council that he’s a small business owner who is invested in his community and runs two hotels. His hotel will offer rooms priced at mid-range, affordable levels at the Exit 55 interchange along Interstate 40 right at the eastern edge of Asheville city limits, he said.
“I’m not a big-time developer like John McKibbon,” Patel said, referencing the developer who is preparing to open the new AC Hotel at the corner of College and Broadway in downtown and who is remodeling the city’s lone skyscraper, the 17-story former BB&T bank building, into a home for a boutique hotel, condos and restaurant and retail space.
No one spoke out against the hotel proposal. One area resident expressed concerns about an access road. An adjacent property owner said he that while he was generally in favor of the hotel construction, he said he was worried that hotel lighting might interfere with his property, and he asked for fencing along the shared property line. One of Patel’s employees spoke in favor of the proposal.
As City Council members dug into details, another aspect of the city’s new approach to hotel development was on full display: with the removal of a quasi-judicial approach to the zoning request, council members were free of previous restrictions on negotiations with the developer.
In full horse-trading mode, council members debated whether or not to require the developer to build a sidewalk up steep Briggs Road, something called for under city rules. Residents in the area said they didn’t want the sidewalk, and council members asked their attorney if they could ask the developer to pay the city $10,000 for a sidewalk to be built somewhere nearby.
Councilman Gordon Smith asked if the developer had an estimate for the cost of 340 feet of Briggs Road sidewalk. A spokesman for the developer said he did not. Smith suggested a more appropriate amount to be required of the developer was something to the tune of $100,000. The developer’s spokesman said that number was too high. A city official finally chimed in to say that the cost could vary from $50,000 to $100,000.
Councilwoman Julie Mayfield suggested the money would be better spent on a concrete pad for a bus stop some 800 feet away from the hotel.
In the end, Councilman Cecil Bothwell motioned for approval, adding the condition that the developer pay the city $10,000 to be used for the nearby bus stop pad, and the condition regarding fencing.
Wisler did not elaborate on her lone vote against the hotel proposal.