Northland Community Council development committee members put off consideration Sept. 26 of a request for variances that would permit a former hotel on Zumstein Drive to be turned into an extended-stay facility.
Committee members pronounced themselves perplexed by what they saw as glaring inconsistences in the recommendations of Columbus planning personnel to the applicant in terms of what is needed to clear the way for the building's repurposed use.
Vice Chairman William Logan pointed out the planning staff was requiring Mitun Patel to comply with some of the regulations -- but not others -- governing apartment buildings as he seeks to add kitchenettes to rooms at the former Continental Inn, 6225 Zumstein Drive.
"Right now, they seem to be picking pieces out of different sections of the code," Logan said. "For us and the community, in the final analysis, it's looking like an apartment complex. I can't legitimately approve from a personal perspective what you're asking us to approve."
Patel was represented at the meeting by Danny Popp of DPP and Associates, who said his client was told all that was required to transition from a hotel to an extended-stay was an increase in density from the 36 units an acre allowed for apartments to 65.2 units an acre, and a change in needed parking spaces from 1.03 for each unit of the hotel to 1.5 for each extended-stay unit.
"He's trying to revitalize the area by putting some money into the hotel," Popp said during his presentation. "We're not turning these into apartments."
"The area has been going down for years and the businesses have been struggling," Patel said.
"You're converting a hotel into an apartment complex," Logan said.
"The reality is this is not an apartment building by any means," Popp said.
Why then, Logan countered, are planning staff members asking that the extended-stay version of the site comply with apartment density and parking requirements, but not open space requirements?
"Zoning staff hasn't brought up anything you're talking about," Popp said.
"We argue with staff all the time about this kind of stuff," Logan said. "You either comply with the code or you don't."
"Not to be argumentative, we went through the one-stop-shop and no one said one iota about these things," Popp countered.
"It seems to us you may need a whole lot more variances than the city is asking you for," development committee Chairman Dave Paul told Popp and Patel.
"Our issue really has to do with the city," panel member Suzanne Harnichar said.
With the consent of Popp and his client, committee members opted to table the variance requests until the next meeting, which Paul said will fall on Oct. 24, breaking with the normal schedule that would coincide with Halloween.
"I think staff is a little flummoxed as to how to treat a situation where you're turning a motel in a commercial district into a kind of different animal," Paul said after the development committee session. "We'd really like them to come up with something a little more holistic, a little more well-considered, and that's what our conversation with them is going to be."