Manteo hotel plan uncertain
Published 7:35 am Saturday, October 12, 2019
After the Manteo Planning Board voted not to recommend a text change to the zoning code that would allow waterfront hotels to exceed the town’s height and size limits, the future of a hotel development in Marshes Light is clouded in uncertainty. Ultimately, it will be the Board of Commissioners that decides the issue, but without Planning Board approval and faced with citizen opposition to the project, it could be in trouble.
Sumit Gupta of SAGA Construction said without town approval to increase the waterfront hotel height limit and ease the square footage requirement, a hotel project likely wouldn’t happen. “I doubt it” Gupta said, adding that if they are “going to build something [a hotel], we want it to be a nice experience and successful.”
The hotel at the center of the controversy wasn’t the issue in front of the planning board. Formal plans for a hotel in the planned Marshes Light development have not been submitted. The issue – a text amendment that would allow a waterfront hotel to exceed the current 36 foot height and 20,000 square foot limit – is a precursor to a formal plan. If the change is allowed, it would not only change the town’s hotel criteria in Marshes Light, but for several other potential sites within the Manteo B-2 zone as well.
Before the Planning Board’s vote to recommend against the town altering the town’s existing hotel restrictions, townspeople again spoke out against the change. It was the second time within six days residents flooded the town hall to voice opposition to a change. Some worried that a bigger hotel – especially if it were to include an event venue and restaurant – would cause parking problems and change the small village ambiance of Manteo. Former mayor John Wilson said 40 years of planning was at risk. He said a larger hotel was in conflict with current planning and urged planners to “save Manteo for the next generation.”
SAGA Construction, who owns the rights to build a 60 room hotel in Marshes Light, had representatives with a presentation in the audience, but they weren’t allowed to make the presentation until after the Planning Board vote had been taken. When the presentation was allowed, Gupta used slides and conceptual renderings to attempt to make a case for SAGA’s request for the height and size change.
Gupta said the SAGA plan would not change the Conditional Use Permit and a hotel in Marshes Light would not exceed the 60 rooms in the original permit. The request to raise the height of the structure by eight feet and increase square footage from 20,000 to 25,000 square feet was to allow for a nicer hotel with minimal impact. Plans to include an event space and restaurant would be to provide an experience-based hotel. When Gupta showed a conceptual rendering of a hotel, there were noticeable gasps from the those in attendance. “This doesn’t even come close to the ‘Manteo way’ of building,” stated one resident.
Manteo Board of Commissioners have set a public hearing on the requested change for the waterfront hotel size at their December 4 meeting. Commissioners could be faced with choosing between the town’s publicly-stated goal of attracting a hotel to tap into the lucrative tourist market or protecting the small town ambiance that many claim is the town’s biggest attribute.