|By J. Ferguson, The Arizona Daily Sun,
FlagstaffMcClatchy-Tribune Business News
Dec. 19, 2006 - Flagstaff's hotels don't like the timing of tonight's public hearing on a plan for a new 164-room competitor.
Mark Ross, president of the Flagstaff Innkeepers Association, said he was dismayed the public hearing on the Courtyard Marriott would be heard by the City Council less than a week before Christmas, saying some residents will be unable to voice their concerns about the project.
"It is being pushed through awful quick," Ross said.
Earlier this year, the Innkeepers, representing primarily national chain hotels, placed several ads in the Arizona Daily Sun raising concerns that the new Marriott might negatively affect NAU's new hotel and conference center and that the replanted trees were too small.
The ads, which asked citizens to write to the city council and the planning and zoning commission, generated little written reaction.
According to city staffers, the city received only six letters from citizens opposed to the hotel, each asking the city to set aside the land as open space, forbidding any future development on the site.
City planning staff has recommended rezoning approval for the project, which also won the backing of the P&Z on a 5-2 vote.
Although not opposed to some development of the property, Ross said he thinks the project as proposed would be an eyesore. It is located in west Flagstaff on Beulah Boulevard next to the Olive Garden restaurant.
The South Dakota-based hotel investment company that owns the land, the Summit Group, said former landowner George Nackard had no role in the project, save for selling it the property for nearly $3.4 million.
Nackard pleaded no contest to charges that he illegally cut down hundreds of trees on the site that hindered his plans for a conference center. He paid a $9,000 fine.
City staffers acknowledge that the current plans for the proposed three-story hotel would be difficult to implement if the trees had never been cut down.
Concerns over the hotel's proposed roofline and revegetation of the denuded limestone hillside dominated the planning and zoning commission hearing in late November, prompting commissioners to attach a long list of conditions to the rezoning request before approving it.
The commissioners had tabled making a decision on the hotel earlier in the month, saying they were troubled by the height of the lodge-style hotel.
During the second hearing, the developers came back with a new, lower roofline, but commissioners rejected this design, saying they preferred "middle ground" between the lower roofline and the original lodge style submitted two weeks earlier.
Commissioner Celia Barotz, who was one of two no votes, said she would have preferred to see a two-story hotel, but Bills told the commission his plans initially called for a four-story hotel but those plans were scaled back to better blend in with the landscape.
The developers have agreed to replant as many tress as possible, at one point committing to an ambitious plan to plant 502 trees on the site.
While the rezoning request is scheduled to be decided by the council in January, the developer will need final approval from the planning and zoning commission for its specific plan for replanting the trees and the overall height of the hotel.
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Copyright (c) 2006, The Arizona Daily Sun, Flagstaff
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