Plan for new hotel in Duluth Heights rattles rural neighbors – Duluth News Tribune

DULUTH — Plans for a new 168-room hotel just east of Kohl’s have been put on hold for the time being.

Earlier this week, the Duluth Planning Commission voted 6-0 to file an action on a review of the plan for the proposed four-story hotel on the corner of Sundby Road and West Page Street, after hearing a number of concerns from neighbors regarding the impact the development might have on the surrounding rural community.

Ben Fye, who lives opposite the site of the future hotel, has expressed fears that the development will encroach on his family’s privacy. “The plans call for a 51-foot-tall building, and I’m afraid those hotel windows will look directly into my home and my family,” he said.

Fye noted that although the site of the proposed development is zoned commercial-mixed-use, making it a seemingly acceptable place to build a hotel, his property next door is zoned rural-residential.

Jo Haubrich lives on West Morgan Street and said that since hotels began to sprawl in what used to be a quiet residential part of town, “We’re seeing through traffic from Swan Lake Road in Yosemite to Page increasing. exponentially. It’s just gonna completely change the neighborhood. La Quinta’s already done that. There’s already four hotels within a mile radius and now, if you put that in our backyard, it’ll do a difference,” she said, asking the city to conduct an impact study “before destroying a neighborhood like this.”

But municipal planning staff have recommended that the Planning Commission approve the hotel project, which is consistent with the property’s long-standing commercial zoning due to its proximity to the commercial corridor that runs along the Miller Trunk Highway. , noted Adam Fulton, deputy director of planning and economics of Duluth. development hub.

City planner Chris Lee said Duluth does not typically conduct impact studies for projects of the magnitude of the proposed development.

The hotel is offered by Kinseth Hospitality Companies, headquartered in Coralville, Iowa. The same company already owns and operates another hotel in Duluth, Tru by Hilton at 503 Clearwood Drive. Kinseth is an established name in the hospitality industry, with more than 100 hotels already in its national portfolio and more than 2,700 employees on its payroll, according to its website.

The name of the newly proposed Duluth Hotel was not disclosed in a planning staff report. But an architectural drawing that depicts the building’s proposed elevation showed it operated under a “Townplace Suites by Marriott” flag.

A resident questioned plans to build an additional hotel in the area and asked if the city had tried to assess this need.

Fulton said that would be beyond the planning department’s purview.

“In my opinion, if a developer proposes to build a hotel, there is probably a demand for a hotel. We haven’t done any market analysis,” he said.

Tricia Hobbs, senior economic developer for Duluth, spoke favorably of the project and the role it could play in further promoting Duluth as a tourist destination.

“The city supports this new economic development,” she said, noting that 2022 “saw strong hotel occupancy, with an increase in multi-night stays.”

“We look forward to continuing to support the lodging community in the months and years to come as Duluth’s tourism continues to strengthen,” said Hobbs.

Joyce Alworth, a resident of nearby Yosemite Avenue since 1984, said, “I’ve seen huge changes with the existing hotels that have been added.” She highlighted the increase in traffic and noise in particular.

“I feel a lot less safe than I do,” Alworth said. “It pains me and makes me very sad that they have the power to put a hotel in this commercial district, but I disagree that it is the right thing to do.”

Planning commissioner Gary Eckenberg said: “There will always be comments that 38 years is a long time to hope everything will stay as we found it. That’s how we feel when change happens in any neighborhood. But my main concern is the applicant is not here tonight to hear all the comments people are making about this major change that everyone should be living with.”

Eckenberg said he was disappointed that a Kinseth representative did not choose to attend Tuesday’s public meeting to address many neighbors’ concerns about the project, even though Northland Consulting Engineers, a company retained by the potential developer , was on hand to answer some questions.

Kinseth’s director of construction and development, Aaron Mailey, did not respond to a News Tribune request for comment.

To give the potential developer more time to address residents’ concerns, Eckenberg offered to drop the question. His motion was seconded and unanimously approved, meaning the issue will likely be back before the Planning Commission when it next meets on October 11.

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