The conversation was shorter and the atmosphere was a lot more welcoming at the Monday night meeting when the two hotels proposed on Whiskey Road were reintroduced to Aiken City Council.
City Council unanimously approved the first reading of a concept plan presented by Naman Hotels as well as a request to annex 5.96 acres of land owned by the Holley family located on Whiskey Road adjacent to Stratford Drive where the two hotels will prospectively be constructed.
Several amendments were made to the plan since it was first presented to Council which denied it earlier this fall. A driveway off Stratford Drive has been deleted and a frontage road parallel to Whiskey Road has been added as recommended by several Council members and even some concerned residents at previous meetings.
The access on Stratford was the main sticking point for City Council members and residents living in the vicinity of the project. Residents worried that the driveway would negatively impact traffic upon the only outlet available for three neighborhoods which have more than 200 homes combined.
“It seems this is a perfect example of working together and coming up with an agreement to meet both sides of the issue,” said City Mayor Fred Cavanaugh on Monday evening.
The efforts of both Naman Hotels and the Holley family to accomplish compromise were applauded by both residents and Council on Monday. Only two residents spoke and both were complimentary of the revised plan.
“We personally hope that on December 10 (date of the second reading,) we’ll be able to call you neighbors,” said resident Lee Rand, who thanked everyone for their cooperation.
Councilman Dick Dewar initially voted against the concept plan in October due to traffic concerns stemming from the outlet on Stratford Drive and seemed pleased with the changes made.
“You’ve done a wonderful job, and I look forward to supporting your project,” Dewar said.
Ashok Patel, CEO of Naman Hotels, was satisfied with the outcome of Council’s vote and said they plan for the hotels to be a great asset to the City of Aiken. The project could have economic impact of $30 million dollars and will provide almost 100 jobs. Patel is also the owner of the Fairfield Inn located on Colony Parkway.
Charles Holley was happy that the first reading was approved and is optimistic about the future of the project.
“We’re just proud of having a quality family of hotel owners continue here in Aiken,” Holley said, citing several awards the Patels have won for the quality of their facilities.
The two hotels proposed are a Holiday Inn Express and a Staybridge Suites.
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.
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.
That building would be 68,115 square feet with 90 rooms, 115 parking spaces and a 600-square-foot meeting room. There would be no restaurant in that hotel either.
The next reading will be held on Dec. 10 at the next regular meeting.