Lincoln Township amends hotel, motel ordinances

By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium

STEVENSVILLE — Motels will be a thing of the past in Lincoln Township, and hotels gained some additional ground, following a joint meeting between Lincoln Township officials Tuesday night.

With a slew of ordinances to discuss and amend, the township’s Planning Commission and Board of Trustees sat together to talk about hotel and motel restrictions within two districts.

Officials agreed to amend the township’s ordinances to permit hotels in the highway commercial district and allow hotels in the commercial mixed use district as a special use. By allowing the hotels in the commercial district as a special use, any proposed hotel would require a public hearing and comment from residents.

Some trustees and commissioners bristled at the option of not including the special use to the commercial district.

“I don’t want what’s going on at M-139 (in Benton Township) where it’s just one hotel after another,” said Treasurer Terrie Smith. “It wouldn’t look good for the corridor.”

The amended ordinance addressed hotel height, as well.

In the previous ordinance, hotels in the commercial district were capped at 35 feet or two and a half stories. Now, the ordinance allows the hotels in the commercial district a maximum height of 41 feet and no limit on stories. The reason for the height increase and removal of storied measurement was because most hotels are now three or four stories tall.

The maximum height was set at 41 feet, instead of a solid 40, because of extra dirt or gravel that is often laid at the base to ensure a structure is level. Doing so raises the height of a building.

“Sometimes (hotel developers) have to bring in some kind of fill to level the land,” said Mike Freehling, chairman of the Planning Commission. “Usually you don’t put your slab at natural grade for drainage issues. If you’re going from the ground, we gave them that extra foot. Sometimes you lose a few inches in the process.”

Freehling said the idea for the amendments came up after the Fairfield Inn and Suites hotel on Red Arrow Highway was rezoned.

Developers of the Fairfield Inn were able to get the site rezoned to highway commercial due to a question over its elevator. The site was originally zoned commercial mixed use on the portion nearest to Red Arrow, which restricted the structure to two and a half stories.

In addition to the hotel ordinance, township officials agreed to ban future motels from being built within those two districts. Existing motels, such as the Super 8 along Red Arrow, would be grand-fathered into the amended ordinance.

A hotel is often considered to be a building with interior corridors that link to guest rooms, and they typically offer more guest services to customers. A motel does not have these interior corridors.

Signs, signs, everywhere a sign

One of the recurring ordinances that has been discussed among trustees and planning commissioners is in reference to signs.

The discussion led to the pole sign amendment that was recently skirted by a local hotel.

When the pole sign for the Baymont Inn & Suites along Red Arrow Highway fell a couple of years ago, the hotel replaced it with another pole sign after going to the township’s Zoning Board of Appeals. This proved to be a way around the sign ordinance that was created to bring more monument signs – and reduce the tall signs seen along highways – to the commercial and highway districts.

Township attorney Scott Dienes told officials they should discuss the sign ordinance more and see what should be made clearer.

Trustee Marc Florian, who also serves on the Planning Commission, referred to the sign issue as “an elephant that couldn’t be addressed in one night.”

Officials at the joint meeting discussed the ordinance for a bit before creating a committee to lead discussions in amending the ordinance, while taking pictures of signs around town to determine what the township should do.

The next joint meeting, which will center around the sign ordinance, is at 6 p.m. April 19.

Contact Tony Wittkowski at twittkowski@TheHP.com or (269) 932-0358. Follow him on Twitter: @tonywittkowski.

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on March 29, 2017)

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