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Greenville, Texas Zoning Commission Wants No More Limited Service Hotels,
Seeking to Create Rules to Prevent Them and Encourage Only Full-Service Properties

By Brad Kellar, Greenville Herald-Banner, TexasMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

March 22, 2011--GREENVILLE -- There is one issue on which the proprietors of Greenville's limited service hotels can agree, namely that the city doesn't need any more of them.

"There are too many hotel rooms right now in the City of Greenville," Tom Jariwala with the Hampton Inn and Suites told the Planning and Zoning Commission Tuesday. "Everyone's business is pretty well down."

Jariwala urged the Commission to consider taking steps to prevent any new limited-service hotels from opening locally.

"If you don't, you are going to have a lot of them that are going to go out of business," he said.

But Jariwala, along with Charles Helm of the Helm Hotels Group -- which runs the Best Western Monica Royale and the Holiday Inn Express -- said there is a need in Greenville for a full-service hotel, especially one which can provide additional meeting space.

"Eventually a full service, once the economy turns around, is going to bring business into Greenville," Helm said. "A limited service is not going to do that."

The question before the Commission was how to encourage a full service hotel to come to Greenville, while preventing another limited service from doing so. Rather than on outright moratorium on limited service hotels, the Commission opted to recommend a list of new regulations designed to rein in what had been a hotel building boom.

In short, the Commission voted Tuesday to require any limited service hotel wanting to locate in Greenville to obtain a conditional use permit.

"You'd have to come see us first," said Commission member Douglas Felps.

The Commission began talking about new standards for hotels last month, as part of a discussion over the lack of meeting space available in the city.

Commission Chairman George Gregg said he had been investigating whether Greenville could host a district convention of the Disabled American Veterans, but that the city's largest meeting space, at the Fletcher Civic Center, would be too small at approximately 4,000 square feet.

"I'd like to see something just a little bigger than what we have right now," Gregg said.

City Planner Lance Estep said the concern was not the number of rooms which are available.

"We have 844 rooms in Greenville, which is a lot, more than what I was thinking," Estep said.

What Greenville lacks, he said, are full service hotels which also include amenities such as a full time restaurant and significant meeting space.

However, in studying the issue, Estep said he spoke with Jariwala, Helm and others in the industry who said such hotels are becoming rarer.

"Full service hotels, they tell me, are becoming a thing of the past," Estep said, adding that many neighboring cities have been offering economic incentives to lure full service hotels for years with no success.

Currently, the City of Greenville has almost no zoning regulations concerning hotels. The lodging is allowed in all zoning classifications with the exception of office and neighborhood services. Greenville has a hotel room occupancy rate of approximately 50 percent most days, broken down between limited service hotels and low service hotels or motels.

Limited service was described as typical of the existing local Hampton Inn, Best Western and Holiday Inn, as well as the Comfort Suites which is nearing completion. Of the 16 local hotels, only six have meeting space available.

Under the proposed regulations, a full service hotel would be allowed by right in general retail, highway retail, commercial and light industrial areas, and by obtaining a conditional use permit in the central area/downtown. Additional limited service hotels would be allowed with a conditional use permit in general retail, highway retail, commercial and light industrial areas, but not downtown.

All new hotels would be required to be constructed primarily of masonry and have an "articulated", or non-flat, surface and a covered drop-off area.

All new full or limited service hotels would be required to provide at least 40 square feet of meeting space per guest room, with 100 guest rooms required for full service hotels and 80 rooms for limited service hotels.

Helm and Jariwala both recommended the required meeting space be increased to 55 square feet per guest room.

A swimming pool would be required for all new hotels. Full service hotels would also be required to provide additional recreational amenities.

Helm said limited service hotels, even though they might agree to build the meeting space, probably would not add a restaurant.

"People don't like to eat at hotels anymore," Helm said.

Jariwala warned that allowing any new limited service hotels into town would harm older and smaller hotels such as the Super 8 or Quality Inn.

"There is just not enough demand for all of our hotels," he said.

Felps said hearing the information was a learning experience, especially in light of how many hotels have been built in Greenville in recent years.

"I'm sorry we didn't start working on this three, four or five years ago," Felps said.

The regulations would apply only to new construction or to existing hotels which are significantly expanded or redeveloped.

The measure passed on a unanimous vote of the Commission. The City Council will have the final say on the regulations next month.


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