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New hotel plan: ‘I don’t think you’ve got it right’

April 25. By Dave Vieser. A plan to build a seven-story hotel on five acres at the intersection of West Catawba Avenue and Waterview Drive received a chilly reception at its first public airing Monday. Members of the town’s Pre-development Review Committee didn’t dismiss the possibility of a hotel at the site, but they were clearly not pleased with the plan submitted.

“I still don’t think you’ve got it right,” said Mayor Pro Tem Woody Washam. A member of the Architectural Rewiew Committee agreed: “Nope, you’re not there yet, ” Joe Harris said.

Both expressed concern with the height of the proposed 14,700 square foot building. Harris suggested they bring the building closer to Catawba Avenue, the wider section of the pie-shaped five acre parcel and then reduce the height.

The proposal calls for 146 rooms in the midst of two residential developments.

Brian Jenest of Cole, Jenest and Stone Engineering, a land planning company which represents property owners Sreeramulu and Prasunamba Nara, said that one of the major attractions of the proposal was the view of Lake Norman, and lowering the height further would eliminate much of that view.

Town Commissioner Jim Duke also took issue with the Robbins Park Hotel name. “I certainly don’t think this should be connected in any way with the town owned and operated facility, even if just by name,” he said.

Technically, a hotel would be permitted at the site, which is designated as “waterfront mixed” in the town’s land use plan. Planning Director Wayne Herron reminded the committee that town officials are anxious to attract more commercial development to balance the highly residentially weighted tax base.

However, the clear indication given Monday was that if the owners proceed with this specific plan, they may be turned down at various levels of approval.

Nearby residents, several of whom attended the meeting, also objected to this plan. “We still have questions on its viability; location, property values impact, and traffic impact…many problematic side effects from having a hotel in between two residential areas,” said Randall Light, who lives nearby on Waterview Drive.

Monday’s pre development session came virtually a year to the day since a combination 14 story hotel and convention center was unveiled by the same owners, which never gained traction.

The pre-development review committee was formed several years ago to give applicants an informal, unofficial sense of how their proposal might be received by the town’s planning board and commissioners during the formal zoning approval process.