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Hotel project appears dead following council vote

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A hotel planned for East Republic Road appears to have suffered a death blow at Monday night’s City Council meeting.

Larry Phillips, owner of Pellham-Phillips Architects and Engineers Inc. who represented developer and hotelier Earl Steinert at the bill’s first reading, said plans for the roughly $8 million Hampton Inn & Suites proposed at the 1800 block of East Republic Road are being scrapped following last night’s City Council vote. Only one councilman, Thomas Bieker, voted to approve a change to the floor-area ratio that would have allowed for at least 30 additional rooms.

“Eight million dollars right out the window - with the city of Springfield’s economy, that’s amazing to me, but that’s what it is,” Phillips said in a phone interview this morning. “(Steinert) is a very good hotelier in this town and understands what his business model is, and his business model is not 80 units, it’s about 110 units.”

Phillips had not spoken to Steinert following the vote, but he said he understood that with no change to the floor-area ratio, the southeast Springfield project would not be financially viable.

“He’s a resilient guy, and if he wants to do it, he’ll probably do it somewhere,” Phillips said. “I certainly am disappointed that council would make that kind of decision on land that is properly zoned for it. The only thing that we were asking was to go from 80 units to 110. … It was properly zoned for the height.”

At the bill's first reading Aug. 22, several residents of the nearby Ravenwood neighborhood spoke out against the plans, saying the five-story hotel would tower over their homes. They said there were no objections to a zoning change to a general retail district when the previous owner had hoped to bring a strip center or two-story office building at the site. Those plans never came to fruition.

Steinert, who owns the two other Hampton Inns in town, was under contract to purchase the 4.74-acre site from Patterson-Thomas LLC, according to listing agent Rhett Smillie of Keller Williams Realty. Smillie said the sale of the property was contingent upon the removal of the restriction.

“The neighborhood opposition is the only thing that killed this deal, and traditionally, the NIMBY defense – not in my backyard – doesn’t hold any water,” Smillie said. “This project met all the zoning requirements. The developer conformed in every way to the requirements, and (Steinert) has unjustly been denied.”

Smillie said he doubted Steinert would move forward with the purchase of the property. Attempts to reach Steinert for comment were unsuccessful.

City staff recommended approval, and members of the Planning and Zoning Commission voted unanimously to approve the change.

Phillips and Smillie said because a traffic study was never conducted by the previous owners, a more restrictive floor-area ratio was left in place. The bill, according to city staff, would have made the site’s ratio consistent with other general retail districts. The bill was up for a vote at the Sept. 19 council meeting but was tabled after some members of council were told that the proposed five-story height of the hotel was allowed under the site’s current zoning.

Last night, council voted down the measure after councilmembers had previously speculated that a “no” vote would make the project unfeasible.

“I traditionally support economic development … but, I don’t believe it’s right in this particular instance,” Councilman Jerry Compton said.

Councilman Scott Bailes said an overwhelming number of neighbors contacted him to let him know they opposed this project, so he didn’t see why any restrictions should be lifted.

Mayor Jim O’Neal said because of the history on this specific site, which was discussed before council at the bill’s first reading, he also would not support the bill.

Seven members voted against the bill. Councilman John Rush was absent.

For more city beat coverage, look to the Oct. 10 Springfield Business Journal print edition.[[In-content Ad]]


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