Letter to Holiday Inn Express: Is Compromise possible?

By: Bill Whaley
10 June, 2017

Sent to: Matt.Gibson@hilton.com, mwilson@cloverleafhospitality.com, Danyell.Sena@Hilton.com, Jason.feger@ihg.com, Olga.Rodila@ihg.com

Date: May 30, 2017 3:04 PM

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The prospect of having a 4-story Holiday Inn Express in Taos has caused enormous alarm and anger among residents in the Taos Valley and a huge public relations nightmare for the Holiday Inn brand. The people are confused and dismayed that a developer would unrelentingly try to ram down the throats of Taos’ residents a project that is so hated and despised.

You need to know that not long after the ordinance was passed last October, an Appeal to the 8th District Court was filed. If the Appeal prevails, New Mexico law says that whatever progress has been made on the project will have to be undone and the land restored to its original configuration. If Holiday Inn wishes to challenge the Appeal, it will have to convince the Special Court of Appeals to hear the case.

We want you to be aware of the vast amount of opposition there is to this project with more to come when it goes to Council. The irony of it all is that the project probably would not have had much resistance if it had come in at three stories as originally presented and if the process had fully involved the citizens. Through no fault of your own, you and the developer were led to believe erroneously by the Town Manager that four stories would be acceptable and that the project would sail through Planning & Zoning (P&Z) and the Town Council. His deceit is only just now coming to light through emails procured from the Town under IPRA. Now, the citizens are more than outraged.

When the Holiday Inn Express project itself was first heard at P&Z on July 6th, 2016, hardly anyone knew of its existence. Within 24 hours of P&Z turning it down, emails show that an ordinance to rezone a large area for four stories was already prepared and vetted in secret. The Town Manager had promised the developer, Jay Batra, that he would have his 4-story hotel one way or the other, the ordinance thus fulfilling that promise. As the ordinance proceeded through the required steps, anywhere from 50 to 150 people showed up at each meeting to speak against the project and less than 10 spoke for it. Contrary to what you may have been told by the Town Manager, it is not the “usual 20 – 30 grey-haired Anglos” who oppose the building. Even the Taos News published a strong editorial against four stories. (See attached.)

An online petition and paper petitions (3,247 people total) show that the opposition is multi-cultural and multi-generational. Speaking at meetings against the project have been representatives from the Native American population, the Hispanic population and the Anglos. The Taos Pueblo people say that it has been a long-standing promise that no other building would ever be higher than the Pueblo, a UNESCO World Heritage site. When the rezoning was first proposed, an area abutting a well-to-do Anglo enclave was included. After the neighborhood association complained, the area was removed. The current area abuts Ranchos de Taos, an historic Hispanic neighborhood older than the Town of Taos. When that neighborhood association’s president presented the neighborhood’s unanimous opposition to the Council, he was demeaned and treated with disdain, to the horror of many people.

What continues to puzzle Taos citizens is the entrenchment among the P&Z Commissioners and three members of the Town Council in allowing a 4-story hotel which is totally out of place in Taos. Every step of the way, these two bodies have lectured the citizens, discredited their opposition efforts and generally refused to listen to what they have to say. This, of course, is not in your control. But, what is in your control is to not continue pushing a project that has so much local opposition to it. We ask that you refuse to go any further with the current plans.

Respectfully,

The Appeal Plaintiffs and The Hotel Committee

David Maes Dan Pritchard Geilan Ismail Tanya Vigil Mark Asmus Paul Christy Liliana Ciccarelli Christine Scypinski
Danielle Vigil Jacquelyn Cordova Marilyn Hoff Fabio Ciccarelli Sang Robeson Kay Lytton-Smith Bill Burden Greg Derce
Ann Rymer Merle Derce Susann McCarthy Peter Mithoefer Kathy McGinty Michael Pascarella Bonnie Korman Wally Cox
Robert Bishop Hank Saxe Cynthia Patterson Bronwyn Taylor Christopher Taylor Kathleen Jackman Diana Mars Anna Bush Crews
Debi Taylor Bruce Ross Jim Dostal Heather Mithoefer Marcia Burden Cristy Holden Lawrence Baker Wally Cox

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