A property owner and developer interested in constructing a four-story boutique hotel at the corner of Fairhope Avenue and Section Street in the heart of downtown Fairhope has put the project on hold.
Matt Bowers said he notified the city two weeks ago he would pull his application from the Jan. 24 Board of Zoning Adjustments and Appeals agenda. Bowers said he would be unable to attend the meeting due to prior business commitments, and he also wanted to understand and resolve concerns with the proposal.
Last month, Bowers obtained a variance from the board to operate a hotel on the site, which currently houses a small courtyard, printing business and vacant restaurant, along with the city’s landmark “Fairhope” clock. A separate variance to construct a four-story building within the maximum height of 40 feet was held over until Jan. 24.
City ordinances currently allow for only three floors within the 40-foot restriction, but Bowers was seeking four floors for a standard nine-foot ceiling height, rather than a 13-foot ceiling height.
The proposal has received mixed reviews on social media, where some residents have said it will be a landmark building anchoring what board member John Avent called “the city’s most important intersection,” while others have complained about the building’s design, size and impact on parking and other amenities downtown.
“It’s hard when you don’t have many opportunities to speak to people directly, but I’d like to meet with everybody and would like to talk to them about what I’m doing, get some feedback, ideas, questions, concerns etc.,” Bowers said this afternoon. “It’s an objective of mine over the next month and then I’ll decide what I want to do.”
Bowers, a resident of Louisiana and owner of Matt Bowers Nissan in Daphne along with other auto dealerships in the Southeast, also admitted he was unfamiliar with “local politics,” likening the development process to “walking into the middle of a divorce proceeding.”
“So it’s important I understand the concerns and am able to address them,” he said.
Only two items are on the board’s agenda Thursday, including a public hearing to consider the request of Rick Gambino for a variance to the side and rear setback requirements for property located at 151 S. Mobile St., and a public hearing to consider the request of ADHD Medical Clinic of Mobile, PC, for a special exception to allow a clinic at 101 Lottie Lane, Unit 6.
The meeting begins at 5 p.m. at City Council Chambers.
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