On Saturday, May 13, the City Council was presented with an item seeking approval for a 6-and-half level, 124-room hotel, with an 80-seat restaurant, and 24 offices for bookkeepers and accountants. These bookkeepers and accountants presently occupy a building beside the very old and beautiful one being demolished for this new development. The hotel will be a high class Hyatt. Across the street from the hotel is the Hampton Inn and within a block there is also a Hilton as well as a Lorien. Behind the Hilton is a large time share. With the Hyatt Hotel this totals five hotels and extended stays. The City Council, all seven members including Mayor Allison Silverman, approved this disaster.
A petition opposing the hotel was circulated through the immediate four block area gathering at least 300 signatures from businesses, home owners, renters and others. Six citizens who live on or near Harvard Street spoke out against the hotel, but were only provided three minutes to air their grievances. Their opposition concerned the conversion of Harvard Street to a two-way street, the destruction of the Naval Association building which is almost 100 years old, chopping down of four mature city trees, damages that may occur to town houses on the odd side of the street, and the limited off-street parking proposed by the developers for hotel guest parking, office parking and restaurant parking. The present open air parking lot located at the corner of Harvard Street and King Street will be excavated for a one-level underground garage below the hotel.
The garage is totally insufficient. The city planners and council permitted them to not only reduce the parking requirement for the hotel part from 0.7 to 0.45 spaces per room, but also allowed them to retain the "zero" parking requirement for the restaurant at the same time.
The developers are providing only 80 parking spaces with two set-aside for hotel management personnel. Employees will not be provided with parking. They are expected to be dropped-off, or come by bus or rail.
If the project is successful, where are all of the guests in the hotel and restaurant going to park? They will park on Harvard Street and other close by streets where they can park for free. A developer at the meeting indicated that employees will not be permitted to park on neighborhood streets. The question is: How will the developer enforce this rule?
Making this an even greater concern, the conversion of Harvard Street to a two-way street close to King Street will remove an additional five parking spaces from the immediate neighborhood inventory.
At the meeting, a disproportionate amount of time was given to the developers to present their case to the council and answer the council’s questions than was given to the local citizens in opposition. Is this democracy? It seems that the city is overwhelmed with a desire to bring in additional taxes and revenue regardless of the local impact of the development and the desires of the local citizens. They continue to give away the city to outside developers because they are unable to manage a city efficiently and properly and constantly need more revenue.
When will this disaster stop in this city? It will stop when we rid ourselves of the current administration and elect council members and a mayor who are friendly to the wishes of their constituents and the community at large.