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Marriott allowed parking waiver after city code flub

(Sept. 26, 2014) After months of fretting over what seemed to be an un-solvable parking stalemate, it appears that both City Hall and the developers of the proposed 61st Street Marriott were making things much harder than they needed to be.

The Marriott’s request to install hydraulic car lifts – which was met with heavy skepticism from both City Council and the Planning and Zoning Commission – was postponed form the Board of Zoning Appeals’ last session.

Instead, the hotel’s developers will be requesting a simple eight-space parking exception at the BZA’s Oct. 9 meeting, despite the previously-held belief that the city’s code prevented any parking waivers under the Special Bayside Development zoning.

“I was advised that they do have the right to ask for a waiver,” city Zoning Administrator R. Blaine Smith told the Planning and Zoning Commission last week.

The hotel is being built under the city’s Special Bayside Development overlay district, in which projects can receive additional height and density rights in exchange for increased setbacks and landscaping. The hotel is designed to be eight stories with 150 rooms.

The belief by both the city and the developers that they could not ask for a waiver of required parking stems from a clause in the Special Bayside regulations, which reads that “no special exceptions or variances may be granted to this provision that would allow more or smaller compact spaces.”

But asking for smaller-sized parking spaces is different, legally, than asking to not have any spaces at all.

“It didn’t’ really make sense to me, because if you can’t ask for more compact parking, how can you ask for no parking?” Smith posited.

Even if it’s against the intent of the Special Bayside code – at least in the city’s view – the Marriott now appears to be in the legal clear.

As such, the project’s backers plan to ask for a simple eight-space parking exemption at October’s BZA session, which will allow them to build the number and size of rooms required by Marriot’s franchise agreement.

Under the flagship’s design guidelines, the hotel must have a certain percentage of larger, higher-end VIP rooms. However, the city’s parking code requires one space for every hotel room under 500 square feet, and 1.5 spaces for anything larger, which is classified as a “hotel suite.”

“Basically, we’re asking for an exception to the extra half-space for every room over 500 square feet,” said Jeff Thaler of Atlantic Planning, Development, and Design.

Thaler noted that, in the Marriott’s case, the large rooms have the same sleeping accommodations, but are just larger floor plans.

Thus, the argument that will likely be presented to the BZA is that the city is requiring an extra half-space on these rooms simply because of their layout, and not because they hold any more people than a room that requires only a single space.

“They’re all exactly the same. According to Marriott’s code, they don’t require extra parking, but under the city’s code they’re just over the limit,” Thaler said.

Foundation work began earlier this summer at the proposed Marriott location, at the site of the old OC Health and Racquet Club. The lot is situated at the western end of 61st street along Sea Bay Lane, stretching between Route 90 to the north and the Trader’s Cove townhouses to the south.

 

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