Columbia City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved a six-story Hyatt Place hotel on Gervais Street in the Vista by OKing a zoning change that would allow it to be built.
The approval came over objections from some residents and other hoteliers that the Hyatt will be too tall for the mostly five-story entertainment and arts district and will block views of the State House.
“I hope it fits and looks good and in the future people will laugh that we spent so much time on this,” Council member Tameika Isaac Devine said.
Mayor Steve Benjamin recused himself from the discussion because he is part owner of a nearby Hilton hotel. Council member Leona Plaugh was not present.
An attorney for the Hampton Inn and SpringHill Suites hotels said his clients would weigh their options. Those options are limited unless the opponents, who say they were required by city staff to keep their hotels within five stories when they were built years ago, file suit.
City Planning and Development director Krista Hampton told council that city codes require buildings to be limited to 50 feet – five stories – unless the upper story is set back 3 feet to every 1 foot in height. Only then could a building rise to 75 feet, or six stories. She said she had no knowledge of city staff in the past not adhering to that.
Hampton Inn and SpringHill Suites attorney Toby Ward said his clients were told by former city staff they could not exceed 50 feet.
Council member Moe Baddourah argued that if that was the case, “I’m against someone getting special treatment.”
He asked that the issue be taken up again by the city’s planning and design boards, because developer Noble Investment Group was asking council to rezone the property from a planned development approved in 2007. Hampton said that the boards had already approved the height of the building and could not revisit the issue because of the zoning change.
Some Vista residents said the building would block their views of the State House, and noted the city code forbade any blockage of “important views” of the capitol.
“They are going to plop down a building that doesn’t fit,” said Steve Hinson, who lives in a condo along Lady Street near the Publix grocery store.
Hampton replied that restricting all development that blocked any view of the State House would stifle growth in the city center.
“By no means is it possible to preserve every view,” she said.