May 16-- May 16--The city's Planning Commission unanimously approved a request to rezone the Econo Lodge at 216 Parkway Drive at its May 15 meeting, opening the door for the motel to be converted into an affordable apartment complex.
Planning Commission Chairwoman Elaine McBeth and member Caleb Rogers were absent from Wednesday's meeting.
Ajit Patel, the owner of the Econo Lodge, plans to convert the 48-room motel into an apartment building with 42 adaptive housing units, and requested that the city rezone the motel from its current designation in the city's Corridor Protection District to a Planned Development Housing District.
In the city code, adaptive housing is defined as efficiency and one-bedroom apartment units with cooking facilities created from an existing hotel or motel and used for affordable and flexible-term housing.
The planned 42 units would consist of 34 efficiency units and eight one-bedroom apartments. The proposed apartment complex, called Parkway Landing at Williamsburg, would feature 42 parking spaces along with a lounge, laundry, exercise room and pool, an attached memo states.
Scott Foster, former Williamsburg vice-mayor and associate attorney with James City County law firm Tarley Robinson, spoke at the meeting on behalf of Patel. If approved, rents at the affordable apartment complex would range from $695 to $995 per month, he said, or $750 to $1,050 per month including utilities.
The apartment complex would be marketed to the area's workforce, as well as students and seniors, Foster said.
"We believe adaptive housing is the highest and best use for this parcel, and that use would benefit the city, the micro-economy of the northeast triangle, Mr. Patel and most importantly, future residents of the complex," he said.
The city's Corridor Protection District applies to shopping areas, hotels, restaurants and tourism-related retail along the city's entrance corridors, according to Williamsburg's 2013 comprehensive plan. Meanwhile, the Planned Development Housing District allows hotel and motel rooms in the city's Corridor Protection District to be converted into adaptive housing, according to the comprehensive plan.
Foster said the motel has underperformed in recent years, and that converting the building into affordable apartments would fill a growing need for lower-cost housing from local workers.
"In the 2018 housing study, Sarah Stafford noted that demand outweighs the supply for housing at this price point, and a significant portion of Williamsburg residents are cost-burdened," Foster said. "This project responds directly to those needs."
Residents of neighborhoods that surround the Econo Lodge who were in attendance largely spoke against the proposal, citing concerns about parking availability, added traffic and high density at the apartments.
City Attorney Christina Shelton said that a maximum of three occupants would be allowed to live in an efficiency or one-bedroom apartment.
Deborah Delosreyes, who lives near the motel, said her neighbors often have to park along Parkway Drive because of inadequate parking availability in her neighborhood, and that adding residents could make parking spots more scarce.
"As a homeowner, I have the usual concerns about the facility's possible effects on property values, safety issues associated with an anticipated increase in vehicular, pedestrian and bicycle traffic in such a concentrated space, and that significant concern has been given by the city planners to ensure that the visual character of the community will be protected and maintained," said Gayle Liakos, another neighbor.
Planning Commission members agreed that the proposed apartment complex would address a need for affordable housing in the city, and would be an effective use of a well-maintained but under-utilized motel like the Econo Lodge.
"We live in a great community that has a number of issues in it dealing with the diversity of housing, and I think having housing that's available in the $695 to $995 (price range) is really a very important thing for our community," board member Greg Granger said. "For a community to be balanced, having a spectrum of housing available is really important."
In an email last month, Foster said the project should be complete by summer 2020 if approved by the city. The rezoning request will now be considered by City Council at its next regular meeting.
Arriaza can be reached at 757-790-9313 or on Twitter @rodrigoarriaza0.
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