Monday, January 17, 2022

Planning Commission unanimously votes for affordable rentals in Econo Lodge

Econo Lodge off Second Street is proposing converting its 48 hotel rooms into 42 “adaptive” housing units.(WYDaily/Courtesy City of Williamsburg)
Econo Lodge off Second Street is proposing converting its 48 hotel rooms into 42 “adaptive” housing units.(WYDaily/Courtesy City of Williamsburg)

Despite some concerns about traffic and parking from residents of Parkway Drive neighborhoods, the City of Williamsburg Planning Commission voted unanimously Wednesday to recommend approval of a proposed affordable rental complex on Parkway Drive.

Two of seven commission members were absent.

The Econo Lodge, at 216 Parkway Drive, has filed a rezoning request with the city — requesting to change from Corridor Business District to Planned Development Housing District.

The rezoning, if approved by City Council, would allow the hotel to convert its 48 rooms into 42 “adaptive” housing units. The units would include 34 efficiency units and eight one-bedroom units, ranging from $695 to $995 per month, depending on the size and layout of the unit and number of people living there.

“I think we live in a great community that has a number of issues in it dealing with the diversity of housing,” said commission member Greg Granger. “I think having housing that’s available in the 695 to 995 [dollar range] is really a very important thing to our community.”

The rezoning request will now move on to a future City Council meeting for a final public hearing and council vote.

At least 10 people spoke at the meeting, most in opposition, citing traffic and parking concerns along Parkway Drive and at the Second Street intersection.

“At least come over and look at the traffic,” said Adrianne McKinney, a resident of Parkway Towns at Williamsburg.

Planning Director Carolyn Murphy said apartments such as the 42 proposed for the Econo Lodge generate less traffic than the hotel would if it were in full-swing.

Several residents also said they were worried their area of the city would become an “affordable housing district.” The Flats of Williamsburg and an international worker housing complex are both within one or two miles of the Econo Lodge.

Murphy said there are only a few areas of the city that could be designated as Planned Development Housing Districts, including the area with the Econo Lodge and a small section of Richmond Road near Bypass Road.

Building codes and city ordinances would also limit the number of people in the Econo Lodge units to three.

If City Council votes to approve the request, the Econo Lodge will join the former Quarterpath Inn as a designated Planned Development Housing District.

The district designation gives underperforming hotels an opportunity for redevelopment to gain new life as adaptive housing.

The city defines adaptive housing as “primarily efficiency and one-bedroom units with adequate cooking facilities created from all or part of an existing hotel/motel, and used for the purpose of providing non-permanent, affordable and flexible-term housing for individuals and families who may not have access to traditional housing alternatives existing in Williamsburg.”

Williamsburg-area hotels and motels have seen a decline in visitation over the last few decades.

The 2007 hotel motel association report shows the annual occupancy percentage for Williamsburg-area hotels and motels went from 58.9 percent in 1987 to 47.7 percent in 2007.

Data filed with the Econo Lodge’s application shows the hotel, like others in the area, has seen decreased visitation.

Occupancy rates for the Econo Lodge hovered around 24 percent for January through December 2018, a report in agenda documents shows.

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Sarah Fearing
Sarah Fearing is the Assistant Editor at WYDaily. Sarah was born in the state of Maine, grew up along the coast, and attended college at the University of Maine at Orono. Sarah left Maine in October 2015 when she was offered a job at a newspaper in West Point, Va. Courts, crime, public safety and civil rights are among Sarah’s favorite topics to cover. She currently covers those topics in Williamsburg, James City County and York County. Sarah has been recognized by other news organizations, state agencies and civic groups for her coverage of a failing fire-rescue system, an aging agriculture industry and lack of oversight in horse rescue groups. In her free time, Sarah enjoys lazing around with her two cats, Salazar and Ruth, drinking copious amounts of coffee and driving places in her white truck.

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