A controversial plan to add a four-story hotel to Parker's historic Mainstreet received a contentious reception at Town Hall on Dec. 1, as the town's planning commission ultimately voted unanimously …
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A plan to add a four-story hotel to Parker's historic Mainstreet received a contentious reception at Town Hall on Dec. 1, as the town's planning commission ultimately voted unanimously to approve the building's site plan.
Nearly 100 people attended the meeting and 30 residents spoke during the public comment period. Ten were in favor of the project and 20 opposed it. One local businessman who is against the project brought up what he called possible conflicts of interest involving members of town council.
Supporters expressed hopes the hotel will bring more revenue and tourism to downtown from travelers visiting family members or touring companies performing at the PACE Center. Some expressed hope that decreased parking on Mainstreet would require visitors to walk through the downtown area instead of parking in front of a business, then leaving, creating what one called a "city atmosphere."
The property sits on the eastern side of downtown, at the intersection of Victorian Drive and Mainstreet.
"It's a beautiful plan, it's a beautiful building, but I feel the location is wrong," said Lisa Monette, a 14-year resident of the townhomes on the eastern edge of the property.
Another townhome resident, Sherika Hagan, said it took 30 minutes to get out of her parking lot for last week's tree-lighting ceremony. She fears traffic will get much worse with a 51-room hotel next door.
Opponents to the plan disagreed with the plan's recommendation by planning department staff and said the building's architecture is inconsistent with the historic center zoning. Others voiced concerns about increased traffic, decreased parking and potential conflicts of interest between members of town council and the developer, Mike May, a member of the applicant, Mainstreet Pier, LLC, and Mars Hospitality, LLC.
Joe Oltmann, owner of Villa Parker and FuNuGyz pub, pointed out that Councilmember Amy Holland works for Mars Hospitality, and said May's wife and companies contributed to the election and re-election campaigns of Councilmember Debbie Lewis. Another opponent to the plan said after the meeting that Councilmember John Diak does financial consulting for Mars.
On Dec. 2, Diak told the Parker Chronicle that since Oct. 7, 2014 he has been the investment adviser for the Mars Hospitality 401(k) plan. Since inception, Diak said he has received $269.80 in advisory fees paid from the plan. He also stated he is not directly employed by any of May's companies nor does he have a financial interest in the hotel project.
Wendy Aiello, a spokeswoman for Mars Hospitality, confirmed via email that Holland was hired by the company in the summer, and said that Holland has recused herself from all discussions and decisions concerning the project.
The email also stated that Mars Hospitality "proudly supported Debbie Lewis' campaign. A donation of $500 dollars was made in support of her continued good work for Parker." That was for her re-election campaign this year.
Total contributions from Mars Development, Mars Hospitality and May's wife Traci totaled $1,500 in 2012, according to a report of contributions filed with the town.
Neither Holland nor Lewis were immediately available for comment.
After public comment ended at the Dec. 1 meeting, Chief Planner Patrick Mulready and Town Attorney Jim Maloney reminded the planning commissioners they were prohibited from considering issues like parking or traffic, and had to vote based strictly on whether or not the plan met criteria in the town's master plan.
Planning Commissioner John Howe said the plan met the criteria, and voted in favor. Many in the crowd began leaving as the other commissioners explained why they were approving the plan, some of whom shouted their frustrations on the way.
"It's a site plan meeting sure," one resident said, "but what about the people?"
Town council will hear the first reading of an agreement between the Town of Parker and Parker Authority Reinvestment to authorize the hotel on Dec. 5. The following week, council and the PAR will hear the second reading and make its final decision to approve or deny the plan.
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