Council loses court battle denying permit to build new hotel on Haywood Street
According to a City of Asheville spokesperson, a judge has reversed the decision denying a developer's request to build a 185-room hotel on Haywood Street in downtown Asheville.
"We’re very pleased with Judge Coward’s ruling," wrote Trevor Walden, Parks Hospitality Group's vice president of operations and sales, in an email to News 13. "We were confident from the start that our project met all conditions of the use permit and we are excited to bring Embassy Suites to Asheville. We are moving forward with the project but currently have no timeline for an opening date."
City council turned down the project in January in a 7-0 vote.
In a brief filed by the city, attorneys argued the project did not meet several permit requirements.
“Personally, I'm disappointed with the decision, and I'd like for the city to appeal. That decision is not just mine though. It needs to go before council for a full council decision,” said Mayor Esther Manheimer.
News 13 tried to obtain a copy of the judge’s order but was told it hadn’t been entered with the courts.
Below is the statement a city representative shared from City Attorney Robin Currin:
On January 24, 2017, the Asheville City Council denied the request of PHG Asheville, LLC, to develop a 185-room Embassy Suites hotel at 192 Haywood Street, by a vote of 7 to 0. Superior Court Judge William Coward has now reversed the Council’s denial. The City is disappointed by the decision, but it is still the City's position that the Council acted lawfully in all respects and in accordance with legal precedent in denying the conditional use permit. Appeal from Judge Coward’s decision would be to the North Carolina Court of Appeals. The Council will decide its next steps in the near future.
Spokeswoman Polly McDaniel tells News 13, “The city attorney is very confident the city will win an appeal.”
Manheimer says council members will have an opportunity Tuesday to meet with city attorneys during executive session to determine their next steps.
The Embassy Suites was to be an eight-story, 185-room hotel with a 200-space parking deck. It would be the latest addition to an area that already contains Hotel Indigo and Hyatt Place across the street.
The hotel was to have occupied about two acres, including the old sheriff's office on Haywood Street.
Former City of Asheville attorney Bob Oast led the team that argued for the project to be approved.
"This is not the center of downtown, it's on the edge," Oast, an attorney for the developer, said when News 13 spoke to him, back in January. "We think this will actually relieve some of the pressure of downtown, as far as expansion of downtown into this area."
The project was previously required to meet seven standards to gain approval:
- That the proposed use or development of the land will not materially endanger the public health or safety.
- That the proposed use or development of the land is reasonably compatible with significant natural and topographic features on the site and within the immediate vicinity of the site given the proposed site design and any mitigation techniques or measures proposed by the applicant.
- That the proposed use or development of the land will not substantially injure the value of adjoining or abutting property.
- That the proposed use or development of the land will be in harmony with the scale, bulk, coverage, density, and character of the area or neighborhood in which it is located.
- That the proposed use or development of the land will generally conform with the comprehensive plan, smart growth policies, sustainable economic development strategic plan, and other official plans adopted by the city.
- That the proposed use is appropriately located with respect to transportation facilities, water supply, fire and police protection, waste disposal, and similar facilities.
- That the proposed use will not cause undue traffic congestion or create a traffic hazard.
Council members, who were required to base their vote on the facts and not how they might feel about the booming number hotels being built, disagreed, ruling that the findings were not supported, and decided the developer did not meet all of the standards required for the permit application.
This decision has now been reversed in superior court.
"We are disappointed in City Council's denial of the conditional use permit for our project," developer Shaunak Patel said to News 13 back in January. "We are in talks with our counsel and have every intent to push this project forward."
The Raleigh developer bought the land in July 2015 for $4.3 million.
Below is a copy of the city's brief in opposition to the project: