Developers proposing three Ridgeland hotels say city officials are unfairly treating them and are denying their rights.
Developers proposing three Ridgeland hotels say city officials are unfairly treating them and are denying their rights.
RIDGELAND — City officials voted against lifting a moratorium on new hotels Tuesday night, much to the chagrin of Mayor Gene F. McGee and developers.

A vote to lift the moratorium to allow the development of a Tru by Hilton and two Holiday Inn hotels failed 2-4, with Alderman Wesley Hamlin and Kevin Holder unsuccessful in swaying the other board members.

Aldermen Ken Heard, Bill Lee, D.I. Smith and Brian Ramsey voted against the lift. Alderman Chuck Gautier recused himself from the vote.

After vote failed, McGee said that he was not sure the board was sending the right message to potential developers in the city.

“For as long as I can remember our motto has been that we are open for business,” McGee said. “I think this board has been sending the message that we may be closed. I have not seen a board in my 28 years as Mayor act like this.”

Ramsey initially offered a substitute motion to allow the Holiday Inn hotels only, but that died for lack of a second.

“As far as a I can tell it is the Tru that people have some heartburn over,” Ramsey said.

Lee said that he had not had enough time to fully educate himself on the moratorium passed before he took office earlier this month and would vote to uphold it at this time.

Heard said that he did not feel the project or the city “would suffer any real harm” by waiting out the moratorium that ends in October.

The moratorium was set for 180 days and passed unanimously in April. The moratorium officially calls for a “study” to be performed. Though McGee expressed disdain for the way this request for relief was handled, he voiced support for the moratorium in April.

“The board wants to look at future planning and make sure what we are bringing into town is top of line,” McGee said at the time. “I think this is a great example of our board making sure that this town is the best we can be.”

He added that the city did not want to be overcome by subpar developments.

Developers for the project were present Tuesday night and said they felt they were being unfairly treated and that the Board was showing favoritism to specific projects. The Board recently granted approval for new hotels at The Township at Colony Park.

This project was denied a variance for a fifth floor in February and was set to go up at the corner of Frontage Road and West Ridgeland Avenue. Developers have said they would like to complete the project by late-2017 or early-2018.

Todd Reeves presented a heated statement representing the developers and accused the city of giving them “moving targets” in the architectural review phase and the aforementioned denied height variance. He said that his company is already “over $3 million into the project.” He accused unnamed residents of the city to be motivated by “greed” to stop them from pursuing what he saw as a constitutional right to develop his property.

“I watched each and every one of these guys in front of Supreme Court Judge (Bill) Waller take an oath to honor the Constitution and then watched a few of those same people give that oath the middle finger, last night,” Reeves said Wednesday morning. “These people are starting to make Hillary Clinton look like Mother Teresa and this Trump-Russia thing look like a parking ticket.”

He noted the property is properly zoned MU-1.According to the city’s zoning ordinance, hotel and motel use is currently allowed as a “permitted use” in districts zoned C-2, C-2A, C-3 and MU-1.

Reeves said city officials had expressed concerns with the quality of the proposed hotels. He said that the city had called them “economy hotels” though by every definition he was familiar with they were at least “mid-level.” He also asserted that their quality was irrelevant because the zoning allows for “hotels and motels.”

“You can see hotels across the street that have received the same height variance we asked for,” Chico Patel, president and CEO of the development company, Heritage Hospitality Group, said. “I think it is unfair. We are an existing hotel development company. We live in Ridgeland, our home office is in Ridgeland and we have a lot of public support.”

Patel added that they are the only Tru hotel that he knows of that has been forced to redesign their standard model to this extent. Redesigns include using brick instead of stucco and other tweaks. He vowed to continue pushing forward for the hotels.