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Auburn hotel clears first hurdle in planning process

Planning Commission votes 3-1 to approve permits for 104-room Hampton Inn & Suites
By: Jenna Nielsen, Journal Staff Writer
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A three-story, 104-room hotel in Auburn’s city limits is one step closer to reality, but not everyone is happy with the project. Following more than four hours of discussion Tuesday night, Auburn Planning Commissioners ap-proved 3-1 a use permit, height variance and tree permit for the 5.9-acre hotel project. The $15 million Hampton Inn & Suites, which will include a swimming pool, spa, business center, meeting rooms and a standalone pad site for a 6,000-square-foot restaurant, is situated on an oak-filled stretch of undeveloped land near the Auburn Woods condominiums on Lincoln Way. The project will also require the removal of approximately 285 trees, which will be mitigated by on-site planting and a payment of $25,775 in lieu tree mitigation fees for the balance. Commissioner Lisa Worthington voted against the project. She said the hotel’s scale was too big and she didn’t think a proposed landscape buffer was sufficient. “I am not sure if a three-story building next to town homes is a good fit for North Auburn,” Wor-thington said. “I think a “lodge feel” would be more appropriate.” Commissioners Matt Spokely, Mark Smith and Nancy Nardini-Hanson, brought up and discussed several concerns before voting in favor of the permits and variance. “I think it will fit well aesthetically,” Spokely said after thoroughly questioning the project’s devel-oper, represented Tuesday night by Garrett Grialou, president of Reneson Hotel Group. Spokely questioned Grialou on issues ranging from size and lighting to sewer and signage. “I think this is a good project at the end of the changes and conditions we have discussed,” Spokely said. Reneson Hotel Group also owns the 100-room Holiday Inn off Highway 49 and Interstate 80. Commissioner Ray Merz was absent. A handful of residents also spoke out in opposition to the project, citing size, height, aesthetics, tree removal and sewer services as major concerns. “We are not opposed to a hotel or any development on this site,” said Auburn resident Deren Ross. “Our problem is that with this hotel, comes the excessive removal of trees. And the scale — it’s mas-sive, it’s huge. We feel this project is too large.” The land is zoned for hotel use and city staff has determined the project’s traffic effect on the community is minimal because it is adjacent to highway ramps. The project developers will also be responsible for minor road widening along Lincoln Way including curb, gutter and sidewalk im-provements. A traffic study associated with the project’s mitigated negative declaration indicates that all-way stop controls may be necessary at the Lincoln Way, eastbound Interstate 80 intersection. The Auburn Woods Homeowners’ Association currently controls an existing sewer pump station, which the hotel would connect to via a service line. A condition of approval indicates the developer would need an agreement with the Auburn Woods Homeowners’ Association to make required upgrades to the pump station. Reneson would also need to demonstrate that there is adequate capacity to serve the existing Auburn Woods development as well as both the hotel building and the future restaurant pad. Once the lift station has been upgraded to meet standards, the city would likely take over the facili-ties from the association and make it a public line, said Jack Warren, city public works director. “This is rural Auburn,” said Auburn resident Barbara Ogden. “Our (neighborhood) is so quiet and peaceful and I don’t want to be selfish, but I don’t want to give that up. (This building) is a big, mas-sive block of concrete surrounded by asphalt.” Residents have 10 days to appeal the commission’s decision. The Journal’s Jenna Nielsen can be reached at jennan@goldcountrymedia.com or comment on this story at auburnjournal.com. ---------- More information: Hampton Inn & Suites project The 5.9-acre project site includes two lots located on the west side of Lincoln Way, south of Russell Road and east of Interstate 80. Here is a look at the project, by the numbers. - 65,000 square feet, building ranges in height from 36 feet to 48 feet - Three stories - 104 rooms with a swimming pool and spa - 6,000-square-foot pad for a future restaurant - Requires the removal of approximately 285 trees, 151 of which are in very poor condition, 56 are in poor condition and five are dead - 182 space parking lot