Hotel vote due next week

ORANGE - The Town Plan and Zoning Commission is expected to rule next week on a request for an amendment to an existing regulation in the Light Industrial District, which could lead to a four-story hotel.

If the panel votes favorably Jan. 18, the hotel will be built on Marsh Hill Road on five acres that currently are home to a wholesale florist. The site is adjacent to a proposed Stew Leonard's dairy store.

The hotel project has been promoted by the applicant as potentially being developed by the Hilton Hotel chain. However when questioned the applicant admitted that although the chain has expressed interest, no deal has been struck.

Scott Gance, a consultant for Peter Halepas, the applicant and current owner of the Marsh Hill Road property, told the commission the hotel chain has expressed interest in developing a 120-room extended stay suites complete with kitchenettes. Some of the rooms might be studios while others will be up to two-bedroom suites.

In addition, there will not be a restaurant in the hotel, only a buffet style continental breakfast will be available as well as sandwiches in the 'bar area.' No formal site plans have been developed only conceptual ideas were discussed during the hearing.

During the public hearing the applicant submitted data they believe demonstrated the area could use another hotel close to the Marriott already on Marsh Hill Road. They submitted a report compiled by Smith Travel Research.

Commissioner Judy Smith Morgan said she was currently reviewing the new data, and declined to reveal how she will vote.

"The applicant submitted new industry data for us to help determine the demand for more rooms. Currently I am analyzing it," she said.

"So far what I have seen in the reports does not show an increase demand. At the same time there has been an addition of 230 rooms which is a 28 percent increase which is in use or near completion," Commissioner Walter Clark IV said.

"At the first meeting when discussing a possible additional hotel the first selectman said he had many inquiries from other hotels expressing an interest. We should have had the opportunity to thoroughly evaluate without knowing who the interested party was," Clark said.

"This forces us into reacting instead of planning. A key opportunity was missed," Clark said.

"The idea of another hotel intrigues me. I wish we had been given the opportunity to study this, do a through job instead of reacting,"