After a nearly three-hour public hearing during the Sept. 10 meeting of Asheville City Council, the developers of the mixed-use hotel Create 72 Broadway still do not have an answer as to whether officials will allow the nine-story building to be built on the north end of downtown. Council members voted to continue the hearing, which is now tentatively scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 24 — the same meeting at which Council will consider enacting a temporary hotel ban.
Before the vote, Council members Vijay Kapoor and Julie Mayfield announced that they would not support the project, citing the need to diversify the use of properties downtown.
“Where my concern is about this is not necessarily on the [Asheville City] Market, with all due respect to the folks here,” said Kapoor, referencing community concerns that the hotel might displace vendors at the popular weekly farmers market. “It’s more a concern about the saturation of hotel rooms downtown.”
“I share Vijay’s concerns and echo what he said about the good things about this project; there are many,” Mayfield added. “But I also do share the concerns about the concentration of rooms downtown.”
Vice Mayor Gwen Wisler and Council members Keith Young and Brian Haynes opposed the motion to continue the hearing but did not comment on whether they supported the project.
During the same meeting, Council members unanimously approved a motion to set a public hearing to consider a moratorium on hotel development approvals within the city. The temporary ban, they said, would give the city time to develop new policies for considering hotel proposals.
In February 2017, Council tightened the standards for hotels and large buildings seeking approval within city limits. Until then, projects of up to 175,000 square feet and 145 feet in height had previously been approved by the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission. The new rule required that hotel projects of more than 20 rooms, as well as any building over 100,000 square feet, receive Council approval.
Since that change went into effect, Council (including previous and recently elected members) has approved eight of the nine hotel projects that have come before it, with few individual members voting along consistent lines. The “lack of concrete policies” within the city’s approval process is a central component to the hotel moratorium, according to a presentation from Planning & Urban Design Director Todd Okolichany. Council will also examine strategies to reduce the impacts of hotels on the community.
City Attorney Brad Branham told Council members that, should the city move forward with the ordinance, the hotel ban should last no longer than a year and that officials must use the time to develop new policies for approval. While Branham said hotels that have already been approved by Council or received a valid building permit have legally vested rights to continue development during the ban, the future of Create 72 Broadway remains uncertain.
“I’m not sure I would say that Create 72 already has a vested [right] at this point,” Branham told Xpress before the meeting. “However, I would say that if City Council denies this application, then [the developers] would not have a vested right, because [Council] had reached a final decision prior to any moratorium taking effect. That final decision would be binding.”