The Colony hasn't had to deal with any of its hotels pulling a bait and switch, but city officials want to make sure that never happens.
Tuesday the City Council discussed ways to tighten its ordinances so that if an existing hotel or a new hotel changes companies, or flags, the city won't have a product it doesn't want.
“We had an issue where we had a hotel that is going to change flags,” City Manager Troy Powell said. “Luckily in this case it's not a bad change, so it's not a concern. But what we decided is in the future what if someone wanted to go from the hotel that we approved to, let's say, an extended stay, which we're not interested in.”
Powell said the idea is to have something in the city’s ordinances to where if a hotel changes flags or the designation of what it's supposed to be, the city has the ability to prevent, when possible, the hotel that was approved from turning into something else.
He said the ordinances outline the types of amenities the city wants its hotels to have, but those amenities can be defined differently based on the hotel brand.
Councilman Richard Boyer said there are three scenarios he wants the ordinance amendments to address. One of those is when an approved hotel changes flags before it opens, such as what happened recently. Powell said this time the city got lucky.
“But even if we weren’t, it doesn’t look like there’s much we could have done about it,” Boyer said. “And that's what we want to be able to consider.”
Boyer said the other issues have to do with existing hotels.
“When standards start to drop in hotels and a hotel loses its flag, they aren't always able to jump to another flag,” Boyer said. “So you'll go from a hotel that was approved to a … ‘Tom's Hotel.’ And it'll be that way until they can get another flag.”
Boyer said another question is if the city should be concerned when hotels go from one flag to another.
“Are there service tiers that we care about that are associated with flags?” he said. “Or if you're offering the same identical services, maybe it's a flag you wouldn't necessarily associate with what we would normally require, yet they plan to continue with the same limited service hotel that they do now.”
Powell said the city's ordinance requires hotels to have certain amenities, such as pools and a covered drop-off area.
“There are certain hotel flags that our current hotels could switch to where they wouldn't have to continue use of a pool,” Powell said. “They could literally close it down. There are a lot of things we require in our ordinance that other flags don't require from those hotels.”
Powell said while the city can't require the hotel company to get the city’s permission when changing flags, he wants to make sure the ultimate flag adheres to the city's ordinance.
Jeff Moore, the city attorney, said one challenge is that it's a zoning issue, in this case it’s a hotel use. However, Moore said he will explore what other cities have done to see if any of the concerns can be addressed.
One idea is to tie a specific use permit (SUP) requirement for extended stay hotels.
“I think one of the concerns is someone comes in, gets an SUP for a hotel and then immediately switches it to an extended stay, even though that’s not what was approved,” Powell said. “So how can we keep that from happening?”
The council is expected to revisit the item in a future meeting.