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Changes to Angelo’s Grove site plan come under scrutiny

By Mark Randall

news@theeveningtimes.com

Plan to fast-track hotel deal stirs controversy in Marion council chambers

A proposed hotel in Angelo’s Grove will have to wait another 30 days after the Marion city council balked at approving a curb cut without seeing a site plan and objections were raised from a neighboring hotel owner and the developer of Angelo’s Grove over traffic and safety concerns.

The Marion Planning Commission voted 8-0 at its May meeting to recommend allowing a curb cut on Angelo’s Grove Boulevard for the lot next to Colton’s despite not having seen a site plan.

Developer Kenny Farrell said he was not notified that there would be a vote taken at the planning commission and added that the city has never allowed a change to the master plan this way.

“In 12 years, this is the first time that the planning commission has ever not supported the master plan,” Farrell said. “It’s fine to allow another hotel. But why should they violate the master plan just to ram a land sale through for the mayor’s son?”

Franklin Fogleman, a real estate developer who owns the land, is asking that the city allow a diagonal curb cut on Angelo’s Grove Boulevard to accommodate the hotel.

His clients are proposing to build a 70-room hotel which will include 35 extended stay corporate suites. The brand of the hotel has yet to be publicly identified.

Farrell said allowing the cut would be poor planning that would risk safety and future development plans for Angelo’s Grove, and asked the city council to reject or delay the vote on the curb cut for 30 days so he could present a traffic study showing that it would have a negative impact on safety and traffic.

“It’s a dreadful idea to add a curb cut,” Farrell said. “I have no idea why you are doing that. We don’t want to have a traffic jam on our main boulevard so that the other 80 acres we are developing are encumbered.

This is the first time you have ever done that. If you are going to do that, give us 30 or 60 days and we will bring a traffic study to show you.”

Fogleman admitted he had spoken to Farrell and was aware of his objections , but added that time was a factor in order to make the sale.

“Mr. Farrell understands the nature that time is of the essence in a real estate transaction,” Fogleman said. “And the dates chosen to be before the planning commission and to be here were chosen in accordance to a real estate contract who is willing and wanting to do something with the lot. If we wait 60 days to engage a traffic study by an engineering firm, we are just further delaying it and possibility risking that this transaction may or may not happen.”

Farrell said he is not against another hotel being built. Allowing the curb cut though, would be bad planning and traffic management, he said.

“You try to avoid diagonal intersections,” Farrell said.

“It is a more orderly traffic configuration.”

There are currently five intersections in Angelo’s Grove: an entrance and exit by the 27,500 square foot shopping center; an intersection at Bancario Road; an entrance and exit to Colton’s Steakhouse; and an entrance to Hampton Inn.

Farrell said both Wendy’s and Zaxby’s requested curb cuts on Angelo’s Grove Boulevard but were turned down because the road was designed to be a tree lined boulevard with limited curb cuts.

He pointed out that the city required them to build Hannah Lane to accommo- date two lots so that they would not disrupt traffic on that road.

“We were restricting how many times we interrupted Angelo’s Grove Boulevard,” Farrell said. “We built a whole other road to make sure that was a free flowing scenic boulevard with as much landscaping as possible. It is already interrupted five time. It might not look like a big deal to add one more interruption.

But they want to interrupt Angelo’s Grove Boulevard for the sixth time in a few hundred feet between Bancario and Hannah Lane.”

Farrell said the city has worked with them over the years to make sure Angelo’s Grove was a quality development that stuck to the master plan.

“This is a master plan that we worked with you to develop and you have supported and never departed from,” Farrell said. “Everyone else has been made to follow the master plan with respect to curb cuts.”

“To say that it hasn’t changed in my assessment is overkill,” Fogleman said. “And to be concerned today about whether we do or do not follow the master plan, we already see an example of a curb cut that did not conform exactly to the standards of the master plan.”

Fogleman added that Saddle Creek off of Polar Avenue in Memphis has multiple curb cuts in a short distance for each business and that there are nine curb cuts on Hwy. 77 before you get to Angelo’s Grove which don’t pose any traffic safety concerns.

“There are places from Turtle Creek to Southaven that people are navigating in what I feel like is exponentially more traffic than is on Angelo’s Grove Boulevard,” Fogleman said. “I’ve been in and out of Angelo’s Grove. I’ve allowed my 14 year-old daughter to drive it and she was able to navigate it into one of those turns without creating a traffic jam.”

Fogleman also said the reason he brought it to the city council for a vote is because it is a city street.

“He (Farrell) has dedicated the street to the city,” Fogleman said. “It is the city’s decision to make. It is the city’s decision to reject it. It is the city’s decision to table it for further study, or to approve it. I would urge you to uphold this decision.”

Councilman Kelly O’Neal asked whether Fogleman had a site plan to show the council.

“I’d like to see a site plan and see what is going on,” O’Neal said.

Fogleman showed the council a site plan that he had on his iPad.

O’Neal then asked why, if Fogleman didn’t ask for the planning commission to vote, the neighbors hadn’t been notified of the meeting.

“I thought in Marion we tried to do things differently and notify neighbors,” O’Neal said.

“I felt the council was the appropriate place to ask,” Fogleman responded.

Councilmen Bryan Jackson and Don Hanks said they had no knowledge that this would even be before the council to vote on.

“This is the first I’ve heard of it,” Jackson said.

“Me either,” Hanks added.

Councilman Cliff Wood said the requested curb cut is no different than the one at Colton’s.

“They took the curb out so the site could be easily accessed,” Wood said.

Farrell pointed out that the cut at Colton’s was planned in advance.

“If you look at Colton’s and the shopping center, the driveways line up,” Farrell

said.

Mike Patel, who is the proposed developer of the hotel, told the council that he needs the curb cut in order to make it easier for customer’s to get to the entrance canopy..

“That’s a main road,” Patel said. “That’s why we need a curb cut.”

“Wouldn’t you want a canopy on the main thoroughfare,” asked City Attorney James “Jimbo” Hale. “I would.”

“My initial assessment was the same as yours, Jimbo,” Fogleman concurred. “The men in the hotel business would like it to face to the left.”

Farrell said other hotels have looked at that site, and that the industry standard most commonly used it for a center canopy, not an end canopy.

“It was designed to back up to Colton’s,” Farrell said. “That’s how the site was configured. That’s what’s in the master plan.

That’s why Hannah Lane was built — to serve those two sites. That site is well positioned for a center canopy.”

Farrell said aside from traffic and safety concerns that it wasn’t fair to allow the curb cut when Hampton Inn invested $7 million in their hotel and followed the master plan.

“That’s a business who has invested $7 million,” Farrell said. “That curb cut and driveway is about being right up in the nose of Hampton Inn. It is not ethical to allow them to violate the master plan to get an advantage.”

Patel and his brother Sam own the Ramada Hotel in West Memphis and the Hallmarc Inn in Marion.

Yogesh Shah, who owns the Hampton Inn, urged the council to delay the vote until the traffic study could be presented.

“I’ve invested more than $7 million in Angelo’s Grove based on the master plan,” Shah said. “I would like to keep it that way. I’d like the mayor and city council to stop this and let him study it.”

Farrell also added that the examples Fogleman provided for multiple curb cuts in short distances were some of the most congested traffic areas in Memphis and the mid South.

“The presence of a circumstance doesn’t make it a good one,” Farrell said. “I live in Memphis and just because it is on Poplar doesn’t mean it is good. I can take you down Goodman Road in Southaven which has done great things for economic development but has created some of real traffic problems. The presence of a certain number of curb cuts doesn’t mean it is good. In all due respect, the fact that somebody is eager

to sell land should not prevent us from saying we don’t want what Poplar Avenue

has.”

Farrell said he is surprised the planning commission would try to ram this through without even seeing a site plan.

“In the 12 years we have been working together we have never in the interest of somebody expediting a land sale subordinated future safety, the future of the development, or the aesthetics of the development” Farrell said. “What I usually hear from (councilman Jim) Spence is an abundance of caution. Where is our abundance of caution?” The planning commission will meet again on Tuesday, June 7 to again discuss the proposed curb cut.

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