Aiken City Council granted first approval for two hotels to be constructed on a plot of land on Whiskey Road at its Monday night meeting.


The vote was five to one – Councilman Steve Homoki voted against it, and Councilwoman Lessie Price was not present.


Naman Hotels, the applicant, is looking to build a Holiday Inn Express and a Staybridge Suites on a vacant 30.4-acre tract of land owned by the Holley family, located on Whiskey Road north of Stratford Drive. A total of 5.71 acres was also requested for annexation. The two items were up for first approval Monday evening.


A total of three neighborhoods – Stratford Hall, Spring Stone and Spring Stone Villas – are located in the vicinity of the proposed project, and Stratford Drive is the only entry and exit point for those subdivisions, which have more than 200 homes combined.


The concept plan for the hotels shows two exit points – one onto Whiskey Road and one onto Stratford Drive. Many residents who spoke at Monday’s meeting would like to see the exit onto Stratford Drive removed from the plan.


Resident Gerry Unverzagt said he was concerned with traffic, especially on Whiskey Road.


“It takes 20 minutes to go a half a mile on Whiskey Road and, if we allow this hotel, it’s only going to get worse,” Unverzagt said. “I’m not against bringing in jobs or against growth in Aiken by any means. I’m against the constant growth on Whiskey Road because it can’t handle it.”


One resident said that she had been looking at property in the Stratford Hall neighborhood but, if the hotels are built and traffic increases, she won’t consider the area. She pointed out that property values of those already living in those subdivisions should be a concern.


Some residents suggested another access or exit road, which they said would alleviate come some of their worries.


Landowner Ferrell L. Holley, Jr. said that they are “big believers in interconnectivity.” He added that he doesn’t foresee the problems that residents are expecting on Stratford Drive, which he said isn’t a very busy road.


Mayor Fred Cavanaugh said that he did have several concerns about the project, including traffic, and that it’s something that needs further discussion.


The Holiday Inn Express would be a four-story, 55,072-square-foot building that would include 95 rooms and parking spots. It would not include a restaurant or meeting place.


Naman Hotels CEO Ashok Patel of Florence said this type of hotel would cater to those only staying for a few nights.


The second facility, Staybridge Suites, would be more of a “residential hotel” or a place where someone would stay for a few weeks or months, Patel said.


That building would be 69,115 square feet with 90 rooms, 115 parking spaces and a 600-square-foot meeting room. There would be no restaurant in that hotel either.


Both would include outdoor swimming pools that will be fenced in.


Patel said the Holiday Inn Express would hire around 25 to 30 people, and the Staybridge would need around 35 employees.


The final reading and public hearing will be Oct. 8.