|By J. Ferguson, The Arizona Daily Sun,
FlagstaffMcClatchy-Tribune Business News
Mar. 7, 2007 - In a political about-face, the Flagstaff City Council has given unanimous approval to a proposed hotel that just six weeks ago was rejected on a 4-3 vote.
Accounting for the different outcome Tuesday was a Courtyard Marriott plan that was a 14 rooms smaller and with a lower roof line than one submitted earlier.
The new, 150-room project on a 6-acre tract on Beulah Boulevard next to the Olive Garden is still 30 rooms more than allowed without a zoning change.
Councilmembers Al White, Kara Kelty, Rick Swanson and Mayor Joe Donaldson, who voted against the larger proposal in January, all voted in favor of the project Tuesday night.
White said the developer for the project had responded to Council criticism, pitching a revised plan with not only fewer rooms and a lower height but also a smaller underground parking garage and a pledge to use reclaimed water rather than potable water for an ambitious revegetation plan.
In plans submitted to the city, a majority of the project measures in at between 42 feet and 48 feet in height, although one section of the hotel measures 55 feet in height, down from the 60-foot parts of the hotel measured in plans submitted earlier in the process.
The South Dakota-based hotel investment company that owns the land, the Summit Group, has made repeated statements it wants to build Flagstaff's first 4-star hotel.
The chief operating officer for the Summit Group, Chris Bills, said the designation may be out of the hotel's reach, due in part of the reduction in the size of the hotel. To be considered a four-star hotel, the hotel must offer round-the-clock services such as a concierge and room service.
NAU's conference center will also include the 130-room Drury hotel, also considered as a potential 4-star hotel.
With the conference center designed to handle up to 800 guests, the Courtyard Marriott could serve as a natural outlet for overflow conference-goers.
Following the Jan. 16 meeting the Summit Group hinted it was considering legal action against both the City Council and opponents of the project in the business community, primarily local hotel owners.
During the days preceding the vote in January, a coordinated media campaign led by local hoteliers was launched by opponents, who paid for large newspaper ads attacking the proposed hotel.
More than 250 faxes were sent to the city council anonymously the day before the vote, purportedly containing names of local residents opposed to the project. An examination of the names listed in the faxes, including two sitting councilmembers, found many names to be inaccurate.
Bills pledged to build a hotel on the site, even if it required going through the entire planning process again.
White brought the proposal back before the Council, in part because of the developer's willingness to amend his original proposal.
The amended plans are expected to be voted on by the Council in two weeks for a final time.
AT A GLANCE:
--Old plan: 164 rooms, three stories, measuring up to 60 feet in height in some areas.
--New plan: 150 rooms, three stories, a majority of the structure is under 48 feet in height.
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Copyright (c) 2007, The Arizona Daily Sun, Flagstaff
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