It’s going to take a little more time before East Ridge enacts a new ordinance dealing with extended stay motels.
During the agenda session of Thursday’s regular City Council Meeting, the board heard from representatives of several motels in the city, including the construction superintendent renovating the former Superior Creek Lodge which will become a Budgetel when it opens perhaps as early as September.
Mike Ashley, standing in for the owners of the Budgetel, referred to himself as “the elephant in the room.” Ashley said that the way the 258-room Superior Creek Lodge was operated for many years by its owner was the very reason the city was grappling with crafting an ordinance to prohibit an “extended stay” from operating in effect as an apartment complex.
Mayor Brent Lambert explained to those in attendance that city officials had wanted to meet with representative of the motel industry to get input from them on specific language of the proposed resolution _ one element of which would limit guests staying for no more than 180 days in a year.
A meeting with a few motel owners earlier this week at City Hall led to hotel/motel officials attending the council meeting.
Ashley told the council that renovations of the three buildings on the site were of a greater magnitude than first imagined. He said that his crew is going beyond current codes, even installing an automatic sprinkler system for the facility. He explained that part of the facility would be rented to guests on a weekly basis, while a portion would be reserved for people visiting over a period of just a few days.
When Vice Mayor Marc Gravitt asked what Ashley’s purpose in attending the meeting was, Ashley said it was for informational purposes. He invited the council to visit the site and see for themselves the kind of top-notch renovations that the buildings are undergoing.
He said that whatever ordinances were enacted that the new owners would comply.
Bob Dollinger, the manager of the Fairfield Suites, spoke to the council and urged them to reconsider placing a time limit on guest stays. He said that the policy would have “unintended consequences” which could jeopardize current legitimate motels and jeopardize the prospect of new reputable motels locating in East Ridge in the future.
Mayor Lambert told motel representatives that the ordinance would most probably be tabled during the regular meeting (which it was) and that city officials and motel owners want the same thing.
“We want to create an environment where everyone succeeds,” he said. “However, there are boundaries needed.”
The council voted 4-0-1, with Councilman Denny Manning abstaining _ to go with a recommended health insurance plan for employees that will keep a premium increase to about 12 percent next year.
A representative from the city’s insurance broker passed out information and discussed at length options the city has. After some discussion, the council opted for a plan that would increase the employees’ deductible with an 80-20 plan and offer an optional 90-10 plan with the difference in premium absorbed by the employee.
Last year the city paid about $1.1 million to provide health insurance for about 120 employees and their families.
The council voted 4-1 to amend a resolution relating to the Border Region Act. Mayor Lambert _ who apparently drafted the brief revision himself _ told the council that the developers _ John Healy, Matt Wood and Ethan Wood _ needed permanent financing for the Bass Pro Shops project. In order to satisfy lenders, the terms of the agreement dealing with state incremental sales taxes needed to be extended not only to the three individuals but also “or their heirs and/or estates,” the phrase added to the legislation.
Councilman Jacky Cagle took exception to Resolution 2576 and pointed out that it was amending a previous resolution (2416) that was referred to by the wrong number in Lambert’s version (2389).
Mayor Lambert apologized profusely for the mistake and sent a staff member to find the correct number for the resolution that Resolution 2576 would amend.
It was suggested by Cagle that the resolution be tabled until the correct references could be worked out and the sections within the resolution correctly sorted. However, Lambert told the council that the developers’ deadline with lenders was June 30, prior to the next regular meeting.
In the end, the resolution passed, 4-1, with Cagle voting no.
The Council voted to accept a bid of $36,192 from Lee Smith to purchase a new pickup truck for the Sign Department supervisor. That money will come out of next year’s budget, City Manager Scott Miller assured Cagle, who had questioned the timing of the purchase.
During the “Communications from Citizens” portion of the meeting, Frances Pope took the city to task for the new picnic pavilion near Camp Jordan Arena not being handicapped accessible. She said there was a 15-inch step up to the bathrooms at the structure that was built by Exit 1 LLC, the developers building Bass Pro and Jordan Crossing.
“I don’t know if being short, old and arthritic makes me handicapped,” she said, but she couldn’t get to the bathrooms _ which by the way she said were locked up.
Parks and Recreation Director Stump Martin said that the picnic pavilion was not completely finished and that there were plans to landscape the area, which included building up the grade around the concrete pad about a foot. Martin told Pope that the city did not build the facility.
Mayor Lambert told Pope that the city did not contract out the work, but that it did have “input and influence over what was begin built.”
Pope suggested that the Mayor leverage his shepherding of Resolution 2576 through council to the advantage of the developers and their heirs to get the picnic pavilion built to the “standards of our park, our city and our citizens.”
The city welcomed two new police offices to the ERPD. Mayor Lambert administered the oath of office and trust to Caleb Cushman and Megan Crisp, while Chief J.R. Reed looked on.