AUGUSTA — A proposal to build a new hotel on Western Avenue was approved by the Planning Board Wednesday despite concerns from other hotel operators that there are already plenty of hotel rooms in the area and the new competition could take business away and potentially put one or more of them out of business.

The 120-room, four-story hotel proposed for Western Avenue is amid a cluster of hotels in that area of west Augusta now, including a relatively new Hampton Inn on the other side of Western Avenue, a Super 8 motel next door to the south, a Motel 6 just up Edison Drive, a Quality Inn and Suites nearby on Whitten Road and the Senator Inn & Spa less than a mile to the north on Western Avenue.

Representatives of other hotels said there are 397 rooms “within a stone’s throw” of the proposed hotel.

“We’re really concerned about this,” said a man who identified himself only as Rick, a sales coordinator for Motel 6. “We all had a bad year economically and are concerned how this is going to impact us.”

The man, who declined to give his last name after the meeting, said the new hotel could force other hotels to reduce their number of employees or even cause them to go out of business.

Auburn developer George Schott, who would co-own the 25,580-square-foot hotel with Florida-based Ocean Properties, said it would target customers staying for more than a week at a time, which makes it different from most other hotels in the area.

Schott owns a similar extended-stay hotel in Auburn that he says is doing well and has started work on another in Bath he anticipates will open next summer.

Schott, who owns the Auburn Mall and other commercial properties in Maine and hundreds of units of former base housing around the former Brunswick Naval Air Station, said his company researched the demand and determined “the need and numbers are there.”

“I feel, and Ocean (Properties) feels (the market demand is there) — you really don’t have a product like this here,” Schott said. “It has been very good for us (elsewhere). That’s why I feel it will work.”

Matt Nazar, development director, said the hotel is a permitted use in that zone and whether there is a market for it is not within the board’s authority to decide or a basis upon which to make their decision.

The hotel would be built at 377 Western Ave. on a lot visible from Interstate 95 and extending to Old Winthrop Road. The 11-acre site was cleared of most trees in recent years and is made up of five combined lots, including three lots on White Rice Lane.

City Planning Board documents list the hotel as a Homewood Suites, which is a brand of Hilton Worldwide. The $12 million project needs Planning Board approval as a major development.

Peter Thompson, president and CEO of Kennebec Valley Chamber of Commerce, said in an interview prior to the meeting that taxable lodging sales have been on the rise in Augusta, which could be an indication the demand for hotel rooms in Augusta is likewise on the rise.

He said in 2009, the Augusta area brought in about $12 million in taxable sales in lodging. By 2012, that had increased to $15 million and in 2013 $16.7 million.

Schott, who attended Wednesday’s board meeting, said in a previous interview that if the project is approved, construction would start as soon as possible in the spring, and the hotel would open a year later.

He said it will employ around 16 people.

The property would have parking for up to 137 vehicles with parking along the south and west sides of the building.

It would be landscaped to provide a buffer between it and two homes on either side of the site, according to application materials filed for the developer by James Coffin of Augusta-based E.S. Coffin Engineering and Surveying. The rest of that area of Western Avenue is largely commercial.

Schott said all the units would have kitchenettes and other amenities meant to make longer-term guests feel more at home.

In addition to city Planning Board approval, the project also needs a stormwater management permit from the state Department of Environmental Protection.

Three houses on White Rice Lane, a home at 186 Old Winthrop Road, and four garages associated with those homes would be demolished to make way for the hotel, according to the application. The city’s Historic Preservation Commission reviewed the buildings to be demolished and determined none of them were potentially significant buildings.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj


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