|By David Macaulay, Daily Press, Newport
News, Va.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Nov. 19, 2009--HAMPTON -- A proposal for a new boutique hotel, restaurant and shops near the Power Plant retail area was approved by the City Council on Wednesday night, but a rezoning to allow the development of up to 128 residential units near Buckroe Beach has been deferred for further discussions.
The council approved Virginia Beach-based developer Bharat Patel's proposal for a hotel with 125 rooms and a pool, notwithstanding concerns about the lack of a prior neighborhood meeting to discuss the rezoning of 4.9 acres of land from residential to commercial use.
The hotel will be built on mostly undeveloped land on the southeast corner of Pine Chapel Road and Power Plant Parkway.
The site plan also entails a 4,500- to 5,000-square-foot restaurant, three retail shops ranging in size from 2,400 to 3,200 square feet along Pine Chapel Road and a parking lot connecting the shops, restaurant and hotel.
The hotel will be five or six stories high and will appeal to wealthy clients, according to the applicant.
Councilman Ross Kearney said he was concerned that no public meetings were held in the community about the change of use of the land from residential to commercial.
The applicant was not required to hold public meetings in the community, although council planning staff recommend it.
"That bothers me greatly. I'm not opposed to the project, but I'm opposed to the process," Kearney said.
But Councilman George Wallace pointed out that the application was open to public input when it came before the Planning Commission.
"The neighbors came to the public meeting and had their say," Wallace said.
Councilman Randy Gilliland said the applicant "followed the legally required process."
"We at the city went beyond the legally required process in terms of notification. ... The debate is whether we should not act on this because we want to tell the applicant that he has to do something that's he's legally not required to do. I have a problem with that," he said.
Greg Dodd, representing the applicant, said he was prepared to hold a public meeting if the council deferred the application. Community activist Rudy Langford accused the council of stifling public input.
"It's not the letter of the law, it's the spirit of the law," he said.
The council unanimously backed the rezoning application and a use permit for the hotel. Councilwoman Angela Leary was not present.
An application by developer Betty Kay "B.K." Allen for a zoning change to allow her to develop up to 128 residential units near Buckroe Beach was deferred until next month's council meeting. Allen will hold further meetings with planning staff and design experts on Tuesday to discuss the proposal. "Everyone has agreed to come to the meeting with an open mind, so we will see what happens," Allen said Wednesday.
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