SALEM - The preliminary site plan for a proposed Holiday Inn Express on the city's east side gained approval Monday night, with a variance granted for the number of parking spaces.
The plan includes 71 parking spaces, falling four short of what the city requires, but the commission agreed to grant a variance to allow the project to move forward.
The project first announced in 2012 on a different parcel with a restaurant and banquet center will now stand alone on the adjacent parcel to the south, with the front doors facing east and the back of the hotel facing North Cunningham Road to the west.
"This gives us the prospect to move forward with the site," local developer Rodney Herron said after the meeting.
Herron is partners with the Forza Group of Carnegie, Pa. on the hotel project which has had to change a few times, once due to an issue raised by Home Depot on the previous site and more recently due to some concerns with the previous preliminary site plan submitted for the new location.
The previous plan had the front of the now four-story building facing south and the back of the building facing north fairly close to the property line. The proximity to the property line didn't leave enough room for emergency extraction of guests from the back of the hotel by the fire department, with a state minimum set of 20 feet for a hard surface. There had also been questions about the driveways leading to the hotel property.
City Planning and Zoning Officer Patrick Morrissey explained that Larry Kosiba, executive director of the Sustainable Opportunity Development Center, met privately with the developers, including Alan Patel of the Forza Group, to go over the plans.
The Economic Development Subcommittee of the Planning Commission then reviewed the most recent site plans with the developers and engineer Joe Gonda of Buckeye Civil Design of North Lima last month, with copies of easements for the entry/exits to the hotel property submitted. Kosiba also attended, along with two other members of the commission.
According to Morrissey, the subcommittee based its recommendation for approval of the new site plan on the following: having the hotel face east with the back of the hotel setback 10 feet from the North Cunningham Road property line; a 10-foot setback from the end of the hotel to the north property line; parking lot grades not to exceed 5 percent; a storm water detention system underground on the hotel parcel; verification of the submitted easements of access to the property; and parking space compliance with Salem code.
Morrissey said a final full site plan and a storm water plan will have to be submitted, along with a $750 zoning application fee, with both plans to be reviewed by the city's chosen engineer for compliance. Approvals by the Salem utility department for water line and sanitary sewer will be required.
After all that, he said the project will move into the permit process, which will include securing a building permit from the state of Ohio and mandatory contractor registration of the general contractor and all subcontractors.
Morrissey thanked Kosiba for "getting this project moving in the right direction."
Turning the project 90 degrees cleared up some of the issues, Kosiba said. He called the project exciting and said it's location in the Tax Increment Financing Zone on the east side will help the city.
"We're definitely very thrilled to have the project going forward," Kosiba said. "It will be the impetus for other economic development both on the east end and the north end of town. This will be the beginning."
Gonda estimated construction could begin in late spring. He assured the commission that he's worked on other projects in the city and is aware of the city's requirements.
Entry to the hotel property will come from an easement off of East State Street next to Advance Auto and another easement off of Cunningham Road behind Advance Auto. Planning Commission member Barb Loudon asked about the slope of the property along North Cunningham Road, asking if a retaining wall will be necessary. Gonda said they plan to grade it, but may end up with a wall.
City Councilman Dave Nestic questioned the fact that the back of the hotel will be up against North Cunningham Road, saying 10 feet won't leave much leeway for landscaping.
"I am a little bit concerned with how it's going to look from the back of the hotel," he said.
Herron said the back of the building will be just as attractive as the front of the building, noting it's designed to look good from any angle.
City Councilman Jeff Cushman, also in the audience, questioned the sign requirements, with Morrissey explaining a free-standing sign can have a height of up to 30 feet, but has to be on the hotel property. A flat wall sign could also be placed on the building.
Herron said he's still pursuing a restaurant and banquet center for the other property, but it will be a separate project from the hotel.