Whether or not the downtown area of Delaware needs a hotel has been a point of contention among residents. Whether or not a hotel is imminent is no longer a debate as Delaware City Council voted down the proposed Wesleyan Inn by a 4-3 vote during its meeting Monday.
Council members voting against the proposed hotel were Chris Jones, Lisa Keller, Jim Browning and Kyle Rohrer.
Under the proposed development plan, a 43-room hotel would have been built as an addition to the historic Perkins House located at 235 W. William St. Jim Manos, the project developer, was also going to renovate the Perkins home as part of the project.
As part of the development, Manos intended to demolish the house at 239 W. William St. (directly west of the Perkins House) to make room for the parking lot. The rezoning of that parcel of land to include a Planned Mixed Use Overlay was the biggest issue to overcome for several council members, particularly Keller.
“For me, my concern is with the zone change,” Keller said. “In order to change zoning in a residential area to commercial use, I’d like to see more support from the neighbors, and certainly, from what I’ve heard, (we) don’t have that support to change zoning.”
Jones echoed Keller’s concerns but added he had no issues with the proposed hotel itself. Browning backed Keller’s words but did not add any of his own thoughts, nor did Rohrer, who said nothing in the discussion preceding the vote.
Addressing concerns over a precedent that could be set with a rezoning approval, City Attorney Darren Shulman said, “I’ve always maintained that rezoning is a legislative decision … to which case it’s up to the decision of city council based on the factors they are allowed to consider, so I’m less concerned about precedent than some other people might be.”
“He has every right to tear (the Perkins home) down and put up a five-story hotel,” Mayor Carolyn Kay Riggle said in addressing council and the neighboring residents of the proposed hotel who were in attendance. “He can put up a five-story hotel and then we lose the Perkins building, and I think that’s important to Delaware. He’s willing to sink his money into this to restore the front half of (the Perkins home) and keep the history of it, to the best of his ability. He’s offered the neighbors everything he possibly can to make them happy.”
Added Vice Mayor Kent Shafer, “Anytime you do a project, there are always people in the immediate area that are the most affected and, of course, the most concerned … I think Mr. Manos has done everything he can do to address those concerns. But I think we have to consider more than just that. We have to consider the value of the Perkins property. It’s in a total state of disrepair now, and it’s going to be restored here. We also have to consider the overall good in that Delaware needs a downtown hotel.”
Jones downplayed the narrative the Perkins home is important to the city, saying, “I’m not falling for the ‘poor Perkins house,’ because nobody has ever talked about it until this came up. Now, all of the sudden, it’s, ‘Oh, it’s such a tragedy it’s in disrepair.’”
After the meeting, Manos told The Gazette, “I was going to improve the traffic flow on William Street at my expense. I was going to take a dilapidated building and make something nice. I’m shocked.”
Asked what his next steps might be, Manos said he and his team will discuss their options with Planning and Community Development Director Dave Efland, which will include exploring the demolition of the historic Perkins House, although he added he certainly didn’t want to do that.
Speaking about concerns over zoning changes, Shafer said, “I think our zoning laws, at times, need to be amended. Things change, opportunities come along. We need to look at it on a case-by-case basis, and then you have to add up the pluses and the minuses. The pluses, here, far outweighed the minuses.”
He went on to say he believed the proposal ultimately failed because of the concerned neighbors around the proposed site who repeatedly showed up and voiced their displeasure with the development to the point that “(council members) were afraid to make a decision to go against them.”
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @ddavis_gazette.