A proposal for the Hyatt House has some of our commenters complaining that it sets a negative precedent in creating an ongoing fee to the hotel that would go to a greenbelt and park enhancement fund.
As the staff report explains, “After reviewing the redesigned building, the neighborhood representatives requested the applicants consider if there is anything that could be done to help address neighborhood concerns regarding a potential change to their quality of life and property value by making a contribution to targeted park and greenbelt enhancements within the Rose Creek neighborhood.”
The applicants, based on this request, revised their project description to include a Rose Creek Neighborhood Park and Greenbelt Enhancement Fund.
“The fund contributions would be calculated based upon a formula of $1.00 per night for each guest room sold. The fund would be administered by the Parks & Community Services Department and used for targeted park and greenbelt improvements within the Rose Creek neighborhood based upon neighborhood feedback,” staff notes.
At the $1 rate, a 70 percent occupancy rate would generate around $30,000 per year. The applicants proposed this for a ten-year period. They also made it contingent “upon no legal challenges being funded or filed by or on the behalf of Rose Creek neighborhood representatives, and that should a legal challenge be brought forward by others, the Rose Creek neighborhood representatives would not participate in the suit and would act in good faith towards the project.”
However, the neighbors have proposed that contribution increase from $1 to $2-$3 per night and the term to continue as long as the hotel is in operation.
At this point, that has not been agreed to, nor has a one-time $350,000 contribution.
I noted at the outset that there was some consternation by several Vanguard readers about this potential agreement. But this would appear to be a potential way forward for both the neighborhood and the applicants.
I actually think that this could be a good precedent rather than a negative precedent. There are details that have not been agreed to and the council on Tuesday may have to be the final voice on the amount of the contribution and whether it is a ten-year commitment or in perpetuity.
Let me explore this potential deal from both sides.
We have heard from neighbors in Rose Creek, both on the Vanguard and at meetings. If they had their purest desired outcome it would be the status quo – no hotel. They cited a number of concerns – noise, privacy, sight-line impairment, and other factors. While the Vanguard has tended to believe that the impact will be less than feared, I think there are legitimate concerns on the part of the neighbors, especially those abutting the greenbelt.
From the neighbors’ standpoint first of all, the funding will enable them to redesign a mini-park along the greenbelt that can serve as a benefit to the people of the neighborhood. Second, as the project relies heavily on the trees in the greenbelt to act as a privacy buffer to the houses along the greenbelt, this would create a funding mechanism to maintain that critical buffer.
In short, the neighbors have some impact coming from the project, and this would help to offset that negative impact with some benefits to the neighborhood.
The applicants also benefit from this agreement.
First of all, they face pending litigation as Don Mooney has already sent the city a letter protesting their Mitigated Negative Declaration. Litigation would produce expenses directly to the project and would create costs by delaying the construction of the project until the litigation was resolved and that would produce costs in lost days of rental potential. Each year of delay could potentially cost the hotel $5 to $6 million in lost revenue.
The applicants were smart to link the request for contributions to the neighborhood to potential litigation.
Again, there are details that have to be worked out in terms of exact per night per room contribution, whether it is $1 as proposed by the applicant or $2 to $3 as proposed by the neighbors, but this is a potentially win-win deal where the neighbors get benefits to offset the potential impact of the hotel and the applicants get to move forward with greater certainty.
For those concerned about the precedent-setting potential of this deal – perhaps that is a good thing.
We are seeing an increased number of infill proposals. The infill proposals are often more dense than the adjacent neighborhood and therefore have impacts on the neighborhood.
What if we created a system whereby we assessed the impacts to the neighborhood, had both sides sit down to figure out ways to offset those impacts, and then created a small fund to help pay for those offsets?
Neighbors would then have a mechanism to improve their neighborhood while we could limit litigation and provide more certainty to the applicants.
Instead of being a hindrance and a cost of doing business, we could view this as a way to produce more certainty and ease the tension between neighbors and new applicants.
This might be the start of a new approach that can begin to limit litigation and reduce tensions in this community.
At the very least, it points toward potentially new ways to structure interactions between neighbors and applicants and perhaps points to be a better way forward.
—David M. Greenwald reporting