Holiday Inn Express – not in compliance, not returning calls

Here is an update on Holiday Inn Express.

To:       City of Rochester Council, Mayor Brede, Mr. Randy Johnson, Ms. Mitzi Baker

From: Councilman Michael Wojcik

Re:       Holiday Inn Express / Shoppes on 2nd

Date:   June 10, 2014

I continue to learn more about this daily, but I do feel obligate to give you and the community an update over neighborhood concerns.

I would like to thank the city council and staff for taking long overdue action against Holiday Inn Express for both violating the terms of their development agreement and creating a persistent public safety hazard for their patrons and the community.  These issues have been ongoing for several years.  The period for goodwill or reasonable accommodation expired some time ago.  On Friday May 30, I spent time on the phone with building owner Jeff Lamont who tried to convince me that nothing was falling off his building.  I encouraged him to watch the Rochester news that evening…  I also believe the Holiday Inn Express has tried to hide the serious issues by reinstalling stone with out a permit or addressing underlying issues.

Because of the persistent negligence of the ownership, the hotel is operating without a certificate of occupancy.  This project is one of several in the Kutzky Park area where we have allowed properties to operate in violation of their development agreements.   I would ask the city council to direct staff to use any means necessary to bring properties into compliance with their development agreements.

As of the morning of June 9, 2014 Holiday Inn Express remains in non-compliance with their development agreement and the building owner had not returned calls to staff.  Given the serious public safety issues and persistent non-compliances I would ask that we set a deadline of July 1, 2014 to have a plan in place to bring all aspects of the property into compliance with the development plan approved by the city council on April 19, 2010.  I ask that we require the developer to provide a form of financial assurance to be forfeit if all improvements are not made by October 31, 2014.  If the developer were not willing to meet these expectations I would recommend that we use our authority to vacate the building on July 1.

Based on our insistence, the Holiday Inn Express did install barriers along East Frontage Road and 2nd Street SW at their expense.

From our meeting April 19, 2010 we included these 2 conditions on the Holiday Inn Express:

Condition #12

The buildings will need to be constructed as shown on the elevation drawings.  The applicant agrees that no deviation to the appearance of the building design, exterior facades, landscaping or streetscape will occur, from the plans approved by the city council.

Condition #14

A detailed landscape plan shall be submitted as a part of the Final Plan submittal material.   Additional canopy trees and landscaping will be necessary to screen the lot and to frame the corridor at this entry area.  Shrubs and understory canopy trees should make up a significant part of the landscaping on the properties to screen the

Among the significant changes that we made without council consent on the Holiday Inn Express and adjoining Shoppes on 2nd*

  • Significant architectural change adding cheap stone to South elevation of hotel.
  • Significant architectural change removing the entire building cornice.
  • Addition of exhaust vent facing 2nd street at pedestrian level.
  • Removal of parking lot landscaped islands.
  • Changing mulch from wood to rock leading to the death of many plantings.
  • Elimination of ornamental fence.
  • Elimination of several trees.
  • Elimination of additional plantings.
  • Reduction in size of approved plantings.
  • Change to strip mall building facing 1st Street, elimination of landscaping elements.
  • Significant architectural changes to corner of 16th Avenue and 2nd Street plaza and landscaping.
  • Elimination of utility box screening.
  • Additional signage added.
  • Change to opaque windows at 2nd street and 16th avenue.
  • Elimination of functional building access at 2nd street and 16th avenue.
  • There is an open question about whether the power lines were to be buried along 16th Avenue.
  • Change of use at 16th and 2nd from restaurant to strip mall.

It appears the developer was given additional signage on the building when a variance request was not checked against the subsequently adopted 2nd street corridor plan and its guidance on signage.  Than language should be applied for incentive and restricted developments.

Unfortunately for the neighborhood we cannot undo all these changes.  Despite the explicit instruction in conditions #12 and #14, staff still entertained Type I amendments that the neighborhood and the council were not made aware of.  The changes did go to the planning commission, but they were not made aware of the council guidance that the elevations and site plan were not to change.

A November 5, 2010 memo indicates staff approved the following items:

  • Addition of 600 sf to restaurant building on corner, plaza to be relocated to West, direct building access at 16th and 2nd.
  • “Minor” architectural changes.
  • Relocation of parking and trash.
  • Removal of landscaped island.
  • Addition of utility transformer pads.
  • Reduction of landscape area.
  • Increase in floor area ration.
  • Minor landscaping changes due to MnDot permit requirements.

During the presentation to the council, an architect on behalf of the developer offered these comments that pertain to the site:

  • “with a small patio on the corner to give some street presence”
  • “good buffer between street and parking lot”
  • “A nice architectural corner…”
  • pedestrian focal points and entrances along 2nd, entrance along the corner. access to restaurant

The neighborhood is justifiably upset that none of this ever happened.

Based on the approval and type I changes I believe the following corrections are absolutely required.

  • All of the stone veneer must be completely removed from the hotel building; a competent contractor should then properly install correct materials.
  • Exhaust vent shall be remove from pedestrian facing façade and routed out top of the building.
  • Ornamental fencing, mulching, and plantings will be corrected per the approved site plan.
  • Street trees will be installed to site plan requirements.
  • Building access and transparent windows must be maintained at corner of 2nd street and 16th Avenue.
  • Method of screening utility boxes (while permitting access) shall be installed to meet goal of the required screening.

Based on the approval and type I changes I believe the following corrections should be considered and discussed further by the city council.

  • Install building cornice.
  • Make improvements to South facing façade.
  • Bury utility lines on 16th Ave SW.
  • Review if strip mall usage at 2nd street and 16th ave. is permitted in place of the approved restaurant.

Regards,

Michael Wojcik

 

Here are some notes from 2012:

 

A concerned citizen delivered me a piece of exterior stone that fell from the Holiday Inn Express on 2nd Street.  Police have been notified.  I have also notified the public.

 

This is at least the 3rd time that stone has fallen off that building.  After the first time I expressed my concern, I was told by building safety that the risk had been addressed.

 

I suggest that the sidewalk be shut down until temporary structures can be built to protect pedestrians can be erected at building owner expense.

 

At our 3:30 meeting Monday I would like an update on what staff is doing to address the issue.  I would like to see an investigation launched to find out how such shoddy construction can be done in the city of Rochester, how it passed inspection, and why so many architectural and landscaping standards that were required as part of the project were never done.  This last part would include the significant changes to the landscaping, roof line and features on 2nd street.

 

Also Randy,

 

Do you know who the general contractor was on this project? Who did the stone work?

 

Michael Wojcik

 

Responses:

 

Good morning Councilman Wojcik,

 

The general contractor and the stone work contractor are as follows:

 

General contractor

Jeff Lamont  [(605)225-1712 or jlamont@lamontcompanies.com ]

Lamont Companies, Inc.

205 6th Avenue SE

Suite 300

Aberdeen, SD  57401

 

Stone Work contractor

Marco Valenzuela [(970) 302-6025]

Bella Vista Stucco, Inc.

115 18th Street

Greeley, CO  80631

 

I talked to Gary Dutton, Manager of Building Inspections and Ed Schnell, Chief Building Inspector and they indicated that they will investigate this issue first thing this morning.

 

Please let me know if you have any further questions or concerns.

 

Thank you

Randy

 

 

2 comments

  1. I find it amazing that, staff are not assuring that construction is consistent with approved plans, and that construction meets codes, which I expect would require approved methods of installation of facings. Also why are buildings allowed to operate without all permits in place, such as the certificate of occupancy?

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