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Decatur Planning Commission approves 240-room hotel in downtown Decatur

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Decatur Planning Commission approves 240-room hotel in downtown Decatur

A view of the proposed Tempo and Homewood Suites hotel looking onto Swanton Way in downtown Decatur. Photo courtesy of the city of Decatur.

This story has been updated.

By Angela Walker, contributor 

Decatur, GA — The Decatur Planning Commission approved special exceptions for a 240-room hotel at 213 Swanton Way during the commission’s regular meeting on Sept. 12.

The hotel will feature two different brands: Tempo and Homewood Suites, both owned by Hilton. The developers are seeking to have 100% of the parking off-site. 

Michael Clifford with BCA Studios, the architect of the project, requested a special exception to increase the building height from 80 feet to 82 feet, mainly due to the grade dropping of more than six feet across the entire site. Additionally, the hotel will boast a rooftop restaurant with views called the Bluestone, an Australian restaurant chain. 

The other requested exception would be to allow for 100% percent off-site parking. A hotel of this size requires a total of 181 total parking spaces. Clifford’s client currently has a letter of intent with a parking deck for this needed parking. The hotel plans to offer full-service valet parking along with on-street pickup and drop-off. 

In working with the Decatur City staff, it was agreed that the hotel would also have on-street parking, a six-foot landscape zone around the hotel, a four-foot bicycle lane, and a 10-foot sidewalk zone for pedestrians. 

Decatur’s Downtown Development Authority supported the project.

Kathie Gannon, president of Downtown Decatur Neighbors, spoke on behalf of the association in opposition to the hotel. She raised concerns about the size of the building and the location of the development.

“As you know…when a plan comes in requesting variances, it generally means that the building is too big for the land, and I think that is a basic problem with this design,” Gannon said.

She added that during the downtown master planning process, residents expressed a clear preference for things like a small-town feel, walkability and more greenspace, which we say in the hotel development. The master plan also calls for Ponce Place to become a pedestrian-first street.

“It would support and connect to existing businesses, new developments, and it would be a festival kind of street that’s retrofitted with more outdoor dining, wider sidewalks, more landscaping and more trees,” Gannon said.

She suggested that another condition to the project could be that some of the hotel/motel tax would go toward the retrofit of Ponce Place as a pedestrian-first area.

Gannon also requested that the city get more information related to the off-street parking in the various garages near the hotel site, and said Downtown Decatur Neighbors objects to the special exception to allow all the parking to be off-site.

“It’s a perception versus a reality of what is available for parking,” Gannon said. “One of the concerns we looked at besides the usage now at the other hotels is if we have excess parking, how much is there, and one of the main areas would be the parking garage. If we use it up for this particular one business, then where is that parking that we say is so available for the visitors to downtown Decatur who complain about a lack of parking.”

After hearing Clifford and opposition comments, the commission approved the application to move forward to the city commission with certain conditions: 

— Additional street trees shall be accommodated to the east and west of the proposed drop-off lane or as an alternative, larger tree pits or landscape strips shall be provided, as deemed appropriate by the city arborist or as required by the city streetscape standards

— Outdoor site lighting shall be shielded from and oriented away from nearby residential uses

— A copy of a written, legally binding permanent access easement providing for the shared use of the alley for off-street loading space and sanitation dumpster services shall be filed with the UDO Administrator before issuance of a land disturbance permit

— A copy of a written, legally binding agreement providing for the shared use of parking (guaranteeing access to, use of, and management of shared parking spaces), shall be filed with the UDO Administrator before issuance of a land disturbance permit

— A copy of any amended, renewed, replacement, or successor agreement shall be filed with the UDO Administrator within a reasonable amount of time following execution

— Shared parking privileges are conditioned upon and shall continue in effect only as long as the use for which shared parking is utilized has legally enforceable access to the required amount of shared parking

— Requiring a dumpster screening

In other Decatur Planning Commission news, Commission Vice Chair, Mike Travis, who has been serving on this board is no longer a resident of the city of Decatur, and Rachel Cogburn was approved to fill this position.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the name of the hotel architect. The story has been updated with the correct information. 

Reporter Zoe Seiler contributed to this story. 

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