Developers faced a barrage of questions about height, traffic, buffers and commercial needs Thursday when they presented a revised hotel plan to neighbors of 1609 E. Franklin St.
The plan differs slightly from a five-story, 110-room hotel and restaurant presented to the Town Council last year.
The new proposal is for a seven-story, 96-room hotel with 28 executive apartments. The apartments, serving mostly business and university travelers, would be rented for a minimum 30-day stay, said Chuck Walker, with Priest, Craven and Associates.
The building’s footprint is smaller – at 12,000 square feet – and would front Franklin Street, he said. The 1.7-acre site would be sculpted so the first floor and 123-space parking lot sit below ground level, reducing the perceived height from Velma Street.
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Developer Coldwell Banker HPW Commercial, based in Raleigh, also is planning a voluntary contribution to the town’s affordable housing fund. The neighbors comments will be incorporated into the plan, which still needs advisory board reviews before the council can discuss or vote on it.
The town’s new Ephesus-Fordham formed-based code district influenced the changes, Walker said.
Form-based code offers developers a checklist of construction requirements and focuses on how buildings relate to their surroundings. The Ephesus-Fordham district, from Elliott Road to Fordham Boulevard and Ephesus Church Road, allows up to 90-foot buildings in some places.
The hotel site, just outside the district, would not be subject to those rules. The land is zoned now for residential and neighborhood commercial use that allows low-intensity businesses, 34- to 60-foot-tall buildings, and hotels with council approval. The plan is to rezone the site to Mixed-Use Village, which would allow taller buildings and more uses.
Neighbors took issue with Walker’s Ephesus-Fordham comparison. The hotel will look out of place on East Franklin Street, and even if it were in the district, they said, the building could only be three stories, or 45 feet tall, adjacent to existing homes.
The building, as planned, would tower over Velma Street homes, they said, increasing noise and light pollution. Staff at Psychology Associates, located next door, said construction and hotel noise could have a detrimental effect on their clients.
A retaining wall and landscaping buffer would separate neighbors from the parking lot. The wall could be taller, Walker said, and they could add a fence to the buffer. The back of the hotel would be about 130 feet from Velma Street, he said.
HPW Commercial would sell the land if the roughly $18 million plan is approved, Walker said.
Chapel Hill resident Terry Vance, with site neighbor Psychology Associates, suggested office or even retail development would be better for the town. HPW Commercial already has council approval for a two-story office building on the site, but officials said the economy derailed that 2009 project.
The neighbors are “not against development. We love that plan that was passed,” she said. “If I had a million dollars, I’d do it right now and sell it to an architect or someone like that, or a clinic.”
The town was seeking office space when that plan was approved, Walker said, but the push now is for more urban development. The developer’s studies also have shown a real need for less-expensive hotel rooms, he said.
Siena Hotel manager Anthony Carey told the council last year the hotel plan would flood the market.