Hotel zoning variance denied for Wentworth Street property
A developer’s plan to put a 42-room hotel in a residential section of Wentworth Street was shot down by Charleston’s zoning appeals board after neighbors complained it would drastically change the area for the worse.
More than a dozen residents said razing the former McAlister-Smith funeral home at 150 Wentworth for a new 32,000-square-foot inn would overrun Harleston Village with an ill-suited, oversized building.
Among the arguments raised at Tuesday’s Board of Zoning Appeals meeting were an expected shortage of parking, plus extra noise, trash collections and deliveries. Also, guest arrivals around the clock, 365 days a year.
One nearby property owner, Dr. Jeb Hallett, called the hotel “a Trojan horse,” saying if such a project were approved it would the open the door for all sorts of commercial ventures.
The board agreed, voting 5-0 to deny the development group’s request for a variance to build a three-story hotel with spa.
Afterward, developer Mark Regalbuto said he still has plans to put something on the nearly 1-acre lot.
Regalbuto was seeking a variance from the city, contending a hotel is a much better use for the site than what current zoning allows, which includes up to 17 condominium units.
“When you stay at a hotel you want quiet,” his lawyer, Brian Hellman, told the board in trying to persuade officials the inn would be good neighbors.
Hellman also warned the alternative of 17 condos with up to four bedrooms each potentially means 68 more cars added to the streets. Residents, meanwhile, said a more suitable plan would be to subdivide the land into lots for about six houses or so, equal in size and proportion to surrounding homes.
The structure at 150 Wentworth is where McAlister-Smith had operated since the 1960s before moving to the suburbs in 2006. Although various attempts to develop the land have surfaced over time, it has remained vacant since.
City officials had backed the hotel project but with conditions, including that the site never become a condo-hotel or timeshare.
The zoning board, however, said the current zoning does not unreasonably restrict the property’s use for something other than a hotel.
Reach Schuyler Kropf at 937-5551.