The development team behind a hotel and marina project in Whitaker Bayou presented to the City Commission Monday the latest addition to its project. The developers thought the addition fit into the city’s priority of North Trail redevelopment.
City staff approved the change.
The Planning Board approved the change.
But city commissioners were not on board.
“It will have significant impact on the neighborhoods,” said Commissioner Terry Turner.
Four of five commissioners turned down a request to add 16 boat slips to the proposed hotel, which has already been approved.
The nine-acre development will be built on the south shore of Whitaker Bayou, just to the west of U.S. 41.
City code does not allow docks in the city, so developers Charles and Kim Githler sought a conditional-use approval for the boat slips.
“We’re developing on North Trail,” said Joel Freedman, the project’s land planner. “We think the slips will provide a unique (feature) for the hotel.”
Several neighbors, however, were not happy with the plan.
“We had a nice quiet bayou,” said Pola Sommers. “We have no idea how (the hotel and marina) are going to affect (the neighborhood). Now, we’re piling on other (projects).”
Another resident tried to compare the noise that would be generated at the boat slips to that of the race boats at the Offshore Grand Prix.
But Freedman reminded the commission that the bayou had a no-wake zone, so boat engines would not be as loud.
The biggest point of contention arose when Commissioner Dick Clapp and some residents questioned the developer’s compliance with a law that requires the middle 50% of waterway to remain clear of boats or docks.
Although city staff and the Planning Board approved the project, Clapp said it appeared that the developer was encroaching into that middle 50%.
Freedman explained that the developers own the submerged land and should be able to use it.
“We pay taxes on that land,” he said.
Kim Githler proposed a compromise in which she would eliminate one boat slip and reduce the size of the remaining 15.
“I’m not looking for a compromise,” said Clapp. “I’m looking for following the law.”
Because some neighbors were concerned that too many casual boaters would try to dock at the hotel, Githler also agreed to only allow overnight hotel guests to use the slips.
But Turner felt there was no way to police that.
In the end, only Commissioner Suzanne Atwell supported the change.
“We don’t need any other barrier to the development of North Trail,” she said.
Githler said she was surprised the commission denied the request.
“We need as much support from our city as we can get,” she said. “But we see the opposite. All we see is discouragement from the commission.”
Finding a hotel company interested in moving into the Whitaker Bayou property will be more difficult now, said Githler, because several had expressed interest in the inclusion of boat slips.
Said Freedman: “(Commissioners) just threw up a big roadblock.”
Contact Robin Roy at firstname.lastname@example.org
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- The North Trail needs all the help it can get. Suzane Atwell is the only one with vision and common sense amongst the commissioners. You get what you vote for.
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