(Photo: Rendering by McMillan Pazdan Smi)
ASHEVILLE — The state’s second-highest court ruled Tuesday in favor of the developers who proposed 185-room Embassy Suites hotel downtown, saying the city had not made a case to stop the development.
In a 30-page filing Tuesday, the three-judge North Carolina Court of Appeals argued Parks Hospitality Group of Raleigh is entitled to a conditional use permit for its planned hotel at 192 Haywood St. at the site of the former Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office. The project was valued at $24 million in 2016.
The City Council voted down the project in January 2017, citing concerns of parking, traffic and a high concentration of hotels near the proposed site.
Developer Shaunak Patel appealed the council’s decision to Buncombe County Superior Court, which ruled in his favor. The city appealed that decision to the Court of Appeals.
Patel did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.
► Hotel developers win legal battle against Asheville, will proceed with 8-story project
It was unclear Tuesday whether the city would try to appeal to the North Carolina Supreme Court.
"The city is aware of the decision and is evaluating its options," said Asheville spokeswoman Polly McDaniel.
Ruling: Developer’s use fits site
N.C. Court of Appeals Judge John Tyson wrote that Parks Hospitality Group is not seeking a rezoning, but "rather a (conditional use permit) to conduct a use that is expressly permitted" in the city’s Central Business District, the zoning district that covers downtown. He affirmed the Superior Court’s decision that the developer’s evidence submitted in its quasi-judicial hearing with the city was "competent, material, and substantial."
Tyson’s ruling was affirmed by Judge Lucy Inman and Judge Phil Berger Jr. The court’s ruling is posted below in its entirety.
The former sheriff’s office site is across from another PHG hotel, the $14 million Hyatt Place completed in March 2016. The plans for the contested Haywood Street property include the hotel, which would cover 178,000 square feet, with conference facilities, a rooftop bar, pool and 200-space parking garage.
The fight comes amidst widespread resident dissatisfaction with a booming tourism industry that has pumped millions of dollars into hotels and visitor-oriented businesses but has left many locals feeling displaced by out-of-town crowds.
Council members have talked openly about moratoriums on hotels. The body that controls Buncombe County’s $23 million hotel tax, the Tourism Development Authority, recently pledged to dedicate 25 percent of the tax to infrastructure.
The rest will continue to go tourism marketing, the authority has said.