Tuesday, January 16, 2001

Newport city commission opposes hotel expansion


Extended stay owner stunned, plans appeal

By Terry Flynn
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        NEWPORT — The owner of the Hannaford Suites was surprised Monday night by the opposition to his plans for expansion and a needed zoning change — not from East End residents but from the mayor and city commission.

        Jim Schiear, who also operates motels in Ohio, presented a plan for a new three-story building at the rear of the historic Hannaford building on East Sixth Street that would add 36 units to the 60 already in operation.

        Mayor Tom Guidugli said he had problems with the addition, which would also require a change in zoning, because he doesn't feel additional rental property is suitable.

        “The goal of the city is to promote home ownership and increase the housing stock,” the mayor said. “I don't think this plan is the best use of very valuable land.”

        Mr. Schiear said after the meeting that he was stunned by the opposition. “I was numb listening to what the commissioners were saying,” he said. “I never expected that kind of reception.”

        The Hannaford, named for renowned architect William Hannaford, was for many years Our Lady of Providence girls Catholic high school. It was purchased by Mr. Schiear in 1985 and converted to apartments by architect/developer Dennis Back.

        The rental units are used primarily as extended stay apartments for visiting business people who need an apartment near downtown Cincinnati for anywhere from a few weeks to several months. Suites also are used at times on a single-night basis.

        Mr. Back said the original zoning, which was changed in the mid-1990s, permitted the extended stay use in the mostly-residential section of the city just across the street from Newport High School.

        Under the new city zoning code, the Hannaford is a non-conforming use and an additional building would not be permitted without a zoning change, according to city solicitor Mike Schulkens.

        Residents of the East Row Historic District told commissioners Monday that they had met several times with Mr. Back and Mr. Schiear and were in favor of the addition at the Hannaford.

        “We were impressed with the way they approached the neighborhood association and listened to our concerns after we saw their plan,” said East Row resident Corey Siddall. “They addressed our concerns and made changes, and we are in favor of the plan. They have proven to be good neighbors.”

        Commissioner Ken Rechtin said he did not understand why the property behind the Hannaford, which backs up to Nelson Place, should be used “for more motel rooms. I don't see why there couldn't be condominiums built there facing Nelson Place with a view of the riverfront.”

        Mr. Rechtin said he needed more information before he could make a decision on the proposal, including the Hannaford's rate schedule. “I would like to see a rate structure that discourages overnight use,” he said.

        Mr. Schiear said later that the Hannaford's rate for a one-night stay was $129, while the rate for a year's stay would be $59 a day.

        “We cannot cater to the transient business, because we don't have the number of employees and we don't have a restaurant,” he said. “We need the additional extended stay suites because we are losing business to places in Covington and Cincinnati when we don't have sufficient space for large companies to bring people here.”

        Mr. Schiear said he would return to city commissioners with the information requested by the mayor and commissioners and hoped to obtain the necessary approval for the addition.

       



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