The wheels are in motion, but not after much discussion.
The City of Wellington has been in talks with developers from Tulsa, Okla., discussing the possibility of building a hotel on the corner of Seneca Road and US-160 Highway, just East of town. The Council approved a resolution at the Dec. 4 meeting to extend a sanitary sewer infrastructure to the location, contingent upon the construction of a hotel.
At a work session on Nov. 27, the developers – Bill Richert of Richert Properties, and Bob Zilm of Zilm Real Estate presented to the City Council their plan to construct an 80 room, extended-stay Candlewood Suites hotel.
Before any plans can move forward, sewer infrastructure would have to be extended to the location. All other infrastructure is in place at Seneca and US-160.
According to the work session notes, the price to get the sewer in place will be $700,000. The developers were on board with committing $100,000, and the City picking up the remaining $600,000.
At the work session the Richert and Zilm explained their interest for building a hotel. They said it was due to oil developments and the local need for hotel rooms. The developers told the Council they would not proceed until they were sure about the sewer extension.
Richert and Zilm also said at the work session that the sewer would not only serve the proposed hotel development, but other potential developments on the Eastern corridor.
Fast-forwarding to the Dec. 4 City Council meeting at City Hall, the resolution was on the table "committing the City of Wellington to extend sanitary sewer, contingent upon hotel development occurring at Seneca Road and East US-160 Highway." A map showing the corridor was presented.
"There's still a lot of things that need to happen, but hopefully this gives them the assurance they're seeking," said City Manager, Gus Collins at the Dec. 4 meeting after giving a brief history of the East corridor. Collins then welcomed Zilm and Richert to address the Council. This is when some interesting-back-and-forth took place.
"I'm concerned about one thing, while this requires us and makes it contingent upon the hotel permit, that's not the only use we have in mind," Zilm told the Council. "…I'm wondering if we can modify this to be any use, because we have four particular concepts in mind." Zilm said they would like to see a hotel, a convenience store/travel stop, a RV park and an eating establishment.
"Three of those four would take less time I think to have constructed than the hotel," Zilm continued. "So I'm wondering if we could open this up a little bit to where it said instead of hotel, not to say it's not going to happen, but if we can bring a travel stop there tomorrow, we can't really work it until we get the hotel on site." He requested the resolution be amended to be contingent on the first user.
"I think it's going to hurt us if we restrict it to the hotel, because I don't know if the hotel will be the first out of the shoot," Zilm said. "So if you could give us a little flexibility, we'd appreciate it." The idea of the hotel not being the first project developed at Seneca and US-160 was news to the City Council.
"Our decision, I believe, was based on getting the 80 room hotel at that site, you're asking for quite a commitment from the City…to build a sewer," said Council Member Terry Nunemaker. "So, yeah the carrot for us would have been the hotel, not a convenience store."
"From a timing stand-point, if we get a convenience store, RV park or anything other than a hotel as the first user, we can't do anything about it if it's not a hotel," Zilm replied. "That doesn't mean we're not applying for it [a hotel]." Zilm reiterated that without a hotel, he an Richart don't get a sewer.
"Then I guess that would be my position," said Council Member, John Brand.
"The entire track will accommodate three to five different user parcels," Zilm said. "What I'm saying is, just in case the hotel doesn't get approved tomorrow, and yet we have another builder that wants to do either a convenience store, or RV park, or a restaurant, we can't do anything about it." Zilm added that they don't want that kind of development to go away or fall behind the hotel.
"So is there a chance the hotel will not go?" asked Council Member Kim Woodrow.
"To my knowledge, no," Zilm answered. "…This development will not stand on its own with just a hotel." The developer said if a builder wants to place a restaurant there, they would have to be turned away because the hotel isn't there yet.
"We don't want to be put in that position," Zilm said.
"Our agreement was we would spend that much money for a hotel," Nunemaker said. "I guess to me that's what the deal is, you build a hotel, we build a sewer. You stop building a hotel, we stop building a sewer, I think it's that simple." Nunemaker added that if the developers wanted to try to build the hotel at the same time with something else, they could work the City to speed up the sewer construction.
"They have shared with us, us being staff, their intent to have additional development," Collins said. "But the initial thought, I thought, as shared with you [the Council] was a hotel." The City Manger also expressed his thoughts on the importance of extending the sewer East.
"This is not a substitute, I am not presenting this as an escape or an alternative," Zilm said. "…If you're saying we can come back to you and say 'we have another user that's ready to go today,' and you'll open it up and embrace that, that's fine too." He added that the hotel project has not gone anywhere, but would hate to see other establishments be turned down and then be built somewhere else.
The consensus among the council was to leave the resolution as it was written; the sewer construction will be dependent on the construction of a hotel. The motion was made and the council unanimously voted "yes." Council Member, Chase Weber was not present.
"I don't mean to be disrespectful, I'm very appreciative of what you guys are looking at doing," Brand said "But to me…I feel a little bait-and-switched here. We talked hotel, hotel, hotel, hotel…to me it just seems like a different thing that came about tonight."