The developer planning a 102-room Holiday Inn near the Leisureville neighborhood says he’ll meet soon with the city and “would like to work out a compromise.”
In November 2007, Hardial Sibia’s Boynton Holdings asked the city to let the hotel go to five stories, up from a limit of four. The city’s planning and development board recommended against the variance, but the commission approved it. The poor economy stalled the project until December.
Sibia said Monday he’s spent $150,000 on planning, and $51,000 for Holiday Inn franchise rights. He said that if he’s turned down, he’ll ask the city if he can build something else. If not, he’ll ask the city to pay his expenses and he would walk away.
At the March 19 meeting of the newly installed city commission, hotel opponents from Leisureville — clad in their red “Hotel No!” T-shirts — urged the panel to quash the project.
In a strategy to get around the three-minute limit per person on public comment, 10 speakers each raised a different issue, with each ending, “the moral of the story is …”
— Minutes of the Dec. 18, 2007, commission meeting show Boynton Holdings sought the variance without having submitted a site plan. City documents show one was required before the variance vote. The city says it’s not required for just a height vote.
— The city has been unable to provide evidence Boynton Holdings mailed notices 10 days before the hearings to property owners within 400 feet of the hotel site. Also, the developer was required to post signs at the site announcing hearings and send photographs to the city. The city told the group it has no such photographs on file. Planners recommended the developer instead request a “height exception,” which has a one-year “use-or-lose” clause that would be void by now. The variance granted by the commission has no expiration. The city says an exception wouldn’t be applicable in this case.
— Five residents attended the November 2007 planning board hearing, with two speaking against the variance and three for it. While the minutes of the commission meeting three weeks later don’t say either way, the group says no Leisureville residents attended the commission meeting. Those commission meeting minutes show a Leisureville board member wrote then-commissioner Ron Weiland, advising that many residents opposed the project. Sibia has said he promised Leisureville leaders $25,000 to go along with the project.
“I do feel that there was probably an error in judgment,” new Mayor Jerry Taylor told the group. “As I was mayor then, I accept full responsibility for that. And I’m going to do everything in my power to correct it.” His comments drew applause.