This month’s meeting of the New Haven City Plan Commission was marked by a heated debate over the parking plans at a newly proposed Marriot Residence Inn.
The Commission, which handles property zoning and city ordinances related to real estate development, dedicated the majority of its meeting to discussing and eventually denying the parking request of the Inn, which would open on the property adjacent to the Marriot Courtyard. The Inn wanted to count satellite parking lots on Whalley Avenue towards its overall parking quota. The Commission also held several zoning hearings on properties around New Haven, including the site of the potential 87 Union St. residential development.
The Newport Hotel Group, a northeast based hotel company that manages the Courtyard Marriot, requested that the Residence Inn only provide parking for 215 cars instead of the 267 spaces required by law for a hotel of its size. A group of 85 parking spots would be located in a lot 460 feet away form the property, which is more than the maximum distance of 300 allowed by city statue.
The controversy of the parking exception was enough to fill the room with more than 30 citizens, led by Ward 2 Alder Frank Douglass Jr., who opposed the Marriot’s parking plan. The group made their presence felt at the start of the meeting when Douglass implored all those against to the parking proposal to stand.
The Newport Group was represented at the meeting by the New Haven law firm Halloran and Sage, though their council did not arrive until after the meeting had begun.
Before his late entrance, Commission Chair Edward Mattison had already called the parking plan “half-baked.”
Mattison found particular fault with the Newport Group’s limited consultation of neighborhood residence in formulating the parking plan.
“I’m uncomfortable procedurally about this. I wish that [the Newport Group] had met [with neighboring residents] and responded to their concerns well in advance of this because it just feels very uncomfortable for us to be moving forward on something of such considerable concern,” Mattison said.”
Mattison also raised questions about whether the Newport group had put sufficient effort into formulating their plan, criticizing it for not being well-sourced.
The Newport Group argued that they should be offered an exception since they have been granted similar exceptions in the past without issue. They were given an exception when they bought and expanded the Courtyard Marriot last decade.
While the Courtyard currently has a satellite valet lot, it is rarely used and is of much smaller size, said James Perito, who represented the Newport Group.
However, the five members of the Commission questioned whether having an 85-space satellite lot could further congest an already busy Whalley Avenue.
“Traffic on Whalley Avenue backs way up — I’ve almost been hit a couple times. I see it as an area with a lot of conflict,” said Ward 25 Alderman and Commission Member Adam Marchand.
The Newport Group was ultimately denied both exceptions by votes of four to one. Both votes in favor came from Kevin DiAdamo, a private practice attorney who sits on the commission.
The Newport group will now have to revise their plans or win an appeal in order to provide enough parking places for the Residence Inn as currently planned.
The hotel, which Perito said will likely serve primarily Yale University affiliates, could turn to the University for help. According to the counsel, the University wrote a letter in support of the application stating that, if the lot were ever to be filled, they could provide overflow parking.
Also at the meeting, Noel Petra’s proposed 2.59 acre 87 Union St. building was reclassified from a BA zone to a BD-1 zone, allowing the property to be used as a mixed residential and commercial property/