The Zachary City Council on Tuesday approved a site plan for a Days Inn hotel despite pleas from residents of the area to deny the request, citing fears about traffic and what kind of clientele the place will attract.
Pinu Patel, of Patel Construction LLC, plans to build a 49-room, two-story hotel on La. 19 near St. Louis Street, a business he said will bring 25 jobs to Zachary plus temporary construction work.
The council previously tabled considering the site plan because city officials said they needed more information from Patel, who returned Tuesday with an updated plan.
The council okayed the plan on a 3-1 vote, saying it met all the conditions required of its commercial zoning classification.
Council members Francis Nezianya, Laura O’Brien and Brandon Noel voted yes. Councilman Lael Montgomery voted no. Councilman Hunter Landry abstained because he had reviewed the plan as a former member of the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission.
“I’m really concerned about putting a hotel right there in that residential part of Zachary,” Montgomery said, echoing what several residents of the area said during the public comment period.
Montgomery and the residents said there are already traffic problems in that area, and they fear the hotel will make things worse. Others said they worry it will invite unsavory characters into their neighborhood, offering them a hub for drug and sex trafficking.
“Do we not care enough about our senior citizens and safety of our children?” asked Angela Allen, who lives on St. Louis Street.
Rosa Peterson, a resident of nearby Lennox Street, said she and her neighbors already have concerns about their safety.
“Please, please, let’s deny this hotel,” she told the council. “We don’t need it in our neighborhood. We need to fix some other things before we do anything else.”
Patel, responding to a question from Noel, said non-customers won’t be allowed to hang out on the hotel property. If they don’t leave after being asked, he said, managers will call the police.
He said he owns Days Inn locations in Lake Charles and Sulphur, and described their clientele as “blue collar.” He said one of the properties backs up to a neighborhood, much like one proposed for Zachary, and he hasn’t gotten any complaints there.
Rooms in Zachary will be $79 to $89 a night, Patel said.
While sympathetic to the residents’ concerns, Noel said it’s not the council’s place “to pick winners and losers in business.”
Mayor David Amrhein asked Patel if the Zachary market, which has three hotels, could support another. Patel responded that his research shows it can.
Nezianya had his doubts, but said he couldn’t justify voting against the proposal, because it complied with the city’s rules.
“I don’t think Zachary needs four hotels at this point,” he said. “I’m very, very concerned about what’s going to happen to that building” if the hotel goes out of business.
Later in the meeting, the council passed a resolution changing how it selects the city’s seven planning and zoning commissioners. Now, each of the five city council members will get to appoint a commissioner and the mayor will get to appoint two.
Previously, the council voted on nominations to fill expired terms, and the mayor appointed people to fill unexpired terms.
The move comes after the last council meeting when Noel nominated outgoing councilman Tommy Womack to the commission. That prompted Nezianya — the lone “no” vote on Womack’s appointment — to question whether that decision should have been made after the new council was seated.
Also, the council agreed to remove two stop signs from Rollins Road at Church Street, a busy intersection near Zachary High School. The council, at the urging of the high school’s resource officer, voted in October to temporarily turn the intersection into a four-way stop to reduce traffic backups, with plans to ultimately remove the signs on Rollins Road.
The council also granted two other requests from the officer, Justin Nevels: to set up a four-way stop at the intersection of East Central Avenue at Avenue A, and to add signs stopping traffic on East Central Avenue at Rollins Place.
In other action, the council:
- Changed the zoning of 28 acres along Old Weis Road from residential estate to residential suburban, a classification that allows more dense developments, so a 78-lot subdivision can be built there.
- Directed the city utilities and public works departments to refer suspected instances of customers tampering with utility meters to the police.
- Elected Noel mayor pro tempore, replacing Nezianya.