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After five months of deliberations, the City of Williamsburg is poised to approve a bundle of ordinances that could change the face of some city hotels.
The Williamsburg City Council is holding a public hearing Thursday on four proposed changes to the city’s zoning code that would allow city hotels to transform some of their room stock into apartments.
The proposed changes would create a new zoning district in the city, known as the Planned Development Housing District, allowing up to 100 hotel rooms in the city to be repurposed as apartment units.
Under its bylaws, the City Council could vote on the proposal after the conclusion of the public hearing.
The four proposed ordinances emerged from the city’s consideration of an October 2014 request by Knights Inn owner Doug Pons for a special use permit to reconfigure a portion of his hotel into apartments. Pons, who also serves on the City Council, proposed turning 60 of the York Street hotel’s rooms into 40 apartment units.
The special use permit would allow Pons to pursue a use of the Knights Inn property not currently allowed under its B-2 zoning.
In a memo to the City Council, Pons said the hotel had seen declining occupancy in recent years, and a temporary shift to apartment units, lasting five to 10 years, would revive the business, while providing the city with additional transitional and affordable housing options.
Pons said rents for the units — 35 efficiency units, three one-bedroom units and two two-bedroom units — would range from $650 to $1,050.
City staff did not recommend approval of the proposal, criticizing its aesthetics and arguing it did not align with the city’s 2013 Comprehensive Plan for commercial corridors. The Knights Inn is adjacent to the Quarterpath Road corridor.
The Williamsburg Planning Commission was unmoved by staff’s concerns and unanimously recommended adoption of the plan to the City Council in November 2014.
The City Council was more concerned with the effects converting the hotel would have on the city. At the Council’s December 2014 meeting, Vice Mayor Paul Freiling said he was uncomfortable with the loss of a portion of the city’s limited commercial space to residential use.
During the same meeting, Councilwoman Judy Knudson said she was concerned the proposal would not be as temporary as Pons had suggested.
The Council voted 4-0, with Pons abstaining, to send the proposal back to city staff for further consideration.
City staff returned in February with a series of proposed ordinances that would create the new zoning district for hotels transitioning to apartments, more strictly define acceptable uses of B-2 properties and adjust the city’s hotel and motel length-of-stay limits from 90 consecutive days to 30 consecutive days.
The proposal initially limited the extent of the new zoning designation to 100 units across the city, but the City Council amended the proposal, restricting the number of apartments any one hotel property could have at 50.
The Planning Commission unanimously recommended the City Council adopt the bundle of changes during its March meeting. Planning Commission Chairman Demetrios Florakis said the proposal was “good for the city,” and was appropriate for the Quarterpath area of Williamsburg.
Pons’ initial request was tabled until July Deputy Director of Planning Carolyn Murphy said since the original request was made under current regulations, it would be reviewed under those regulations, and would not be affected by any changes made to the city’s ordinances.
The public hearing is scheduled for April 9 during the City Council’s regular meeting. The meeting will begin at 2 p.m. in the Municipal Building on Lafayette Street.