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Auburn may still get Lincoln Way hotel

Hampton Inn & Suites could go before planning commission next month, planner says
By: Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer
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A three-story, 104-room Hampton Inn & Suites hotel is still a possibility in Auburn. In 2008 the Auburn City Council denied the appeals of residents opposed to the project and gave the approval for the project to move forward. The hotel is planned to be located at Lincoln Way and Russell Road just off Interstate 80 on a vacant piece of property next to the Auburn Woods condominiums. According to a previous Journal report, the hotel would include a swimming pool, spa, business center, meeting rooms and a stand-alone site for a 6,000-square-foot restaurant. The project would require the removal of 285 trees from the property, which the developer could mitigate by on-site planting and a payment of $22,775 of tree mitigation fees. Since the project received the city’s approval no development has taken place. Reneson Hotels, which also owns the Holiday Inn and Max’s restaurant on Grass Valley Highway, had two years to pull a building permit, said Reg Murray, senior planner for the city of Auburn. “They didn’t move forward,” Murray said. “So, they need to apply for an extension to keep their permit valid. They have made an application for an extension of their entitlements, original approvals. They want to keep their options open at the very least.” Murray said nothing about the potential development has changed. The city requested copies of the project’s original plans to give to the Auburn Planning Commission to show it that nothing is different from the project it originally approved. Murray said the Planning Commission could be looking at an extension of the permit soon. “It’s possible we would be moving toward a commission hearing next month in March,” Murray said. “At the earliest it would be March.” Garrett Grialou, president of Reneson Hotels, said the company is still hopeful about the development. “Yes, we are still interested in moving forward with the project, but the economic slowdown has impacted our original timeframe,” Grialou said Thursday. “We are uncertain about a construction start date but are optimistic that the project will move forward.” Aaron Frank, a resident of the Auburn Woods condominiums, said he is a proponent of the project. “I think it would be wonderful,” Frank said of the hotel. “I think it would bring more to the community. It would add a little more color to the street. This street is already busy so it’s not like it’s going to be busier. I think it might even bring more value to (our property).” Frank said he thinks building the hotel makes sense, because that particular part of Lincoln Way seems very popular and already has houses, town homes and condominiums. “This location is (getting) an onslaught (of people),” he said. “More and more people are wanting to move to Auburn in general, but mainly right here. It seems like it would just fit in.” Auburn Woods resident Georgina Pritchard said she feels there are positive and negative aspects to the project. “There is good and bad in everything,” Pritchard said. “So, there are positive parts to it that it will help our small community here. But I am very upset with the City Council for allowing them to make it a three-story. It will end up being a big ugly building like the one on Elm Avenue (and Auburn Ravine Road) that has been vacant for years.” Pritchard said she thinks the project demonstrates that the city is not listening to resident concerns. “The City Council is not working for the people, they are working for big business,” she said. “I wish the City Council would start listening to the people in the community. It’s supposed to be for the people, not the money.” Auburn Woods resident Kristin Chandler said she is worried about the possibility of more big businesses coming to the city as a result of the hotel. “I would hope that it wouldn’t bring other businesses,” Chandler said. “I like this small town. I feel really safe here. I have been here for 22 years in this same location.” Chandler said she is also worried about a population that could already be living on the property. “That is an environment that has a lot of wildlife in there, and that will all be gone,” Chandler said. Reach Bridget Jones at bridgetj@goldcountrymedia.com