by Max Brantley
The LR Planning Commission takes up the proposal to build an Aloft Hotel in the River Market today. I was interested to read the advance article today in the Democrat-Gazette for how much attention it -- and an article Sunday -- focused on opponents' argument that the hotel would be bad for their businesses -- the Capital and Peabody hotels.
The competition argument is irrelevant (except to the wealthy Stephens family, whose free market advocacy stops when it nears their doorstep.) It's my understanding that the law doesn't allow planners to arbitrarily consider the market in making this decision. Height, yes? Compatability with surroundings? Yes. Signage? Yes. Setbacks? Yes. Sufficiency of parking? Yes. Competition? NO.
The Planning Commission cannot vote down a rezoning for a new securities business or a new burger joint or a new newspaper because competitiors say the neighborhood has enough of these already.
Side note: Library Director Bobby Roberts has left some proponents of the hotel scratching their heads, if not feeling betrayed. They thought he'd agreed to a compromise on the design. Then he suddenly did an about-face and returned to full-throated opposition. This double-cross is easy to explain. He wants the land in question for the library -- some day. He thought he was beaten on the Aloft, which he thinks will detract from his neighboring buildings. He had worked out the best design he could get. Then, cue bugle, from over the hill, came the cavalry in the form of late-arriving Stephens clout. Roberts hopped on the gold train. Those that have the gold generally rule in these parts, podnuh.