Newly revised hotel plans for the former Dixie Furniture store on upper King Street — the changes include bigger guest rooms in a taller building with two restaurants — are on hold because of a quirk in the city’s new height ordinance.
The main concern of the Board of Zoning Appeals this week was where the workers would park, but they couldn’t settle that question because it wasn’t clear how tall the project might end up.
The area is zoned for four stories, but the updated plans show five, with ground-floor and rooftop restaurants, street-level retail space and guest rooms equipped with kitchens, washers and dryers.
The Board of Architectural Review has the power to approve an extra floor based on "architectural merit and context," city zoning administrator Lee Batchelder said, though it has yet to do so.
Architect Steve Ramos said the BAR wouldn’t review a plan unless the zoning board approves it, so it's unclear whether a fifth floor is even feasible.
As far as the parking concerns, the city recently started requiring new hotel projects to include parking plans for employees. In this case, property owner 529 King Investors has said workers could use a new shuttle-served lot on Morrison Drive. Batchelder questioned whether that was a realistic solution, citing the high demand for those spaces.
Brian Hellman, an attorney for the owner, said 529 King Investors was researching leasing spaces in nearby lots and giving employee vouchers, but it couldn’t move ahead on that until it knows the total number of spaces it needs. The figure, too, would be dictated by the building height.
"This new change in the ordinance is very difficult," Hellman told the board.
Michael Robinson and other board members had qualms about approving a plan without knowing if it could actually be built.
"This fifth-floor issue is a little disturbing to me," Robinson said. "We’re approving something we’re not sure can be done."
He also pointed out that City Councilman Mike Seekings was present, saying he hopes council takes another look at the height ordinance.
The zoning panel ended up deferring the issue.