Proposed extended-stay Hilton has Zandale neighbors concerned

Neighbors of a proposed extended-stay hotel in Zandale say they are worried that the four-story, 105-room building could change the character of their quiet area, tucked behind Trader Joe's off busy Nicholasville Road.

"We feel it is not a good fit for our neighborhood," said Mary Ware, who lives on Heather Way.

If the Home 2 Suites by Hilton is built as planned, she'll have a terrific view of the back of it, not to mention the 100 or so new parking spaces planned in what is now a vacant field surrounded by single-family homes and medical offices.

"What we have right now are primarily professional offices. By the end of the day, the parking lots are empty, and they are closed on the weekend," Ware said Thursday. "Right now, with Trader Joe's, we see just a sliver of light and we don't hear car doors closing. This is going to be year-round, 24-7."

The Zandale Neighborhood Association sent a letter last month to the city's Board of Adjustment, opposing the zoning changes that would be required to build the hotel unless specific concerns are addressed about traffic, water runoff, noise and light screening, and preservation of two historical bur oaks.

William McAtee, president of the Zandale Neighborhood Association, said homes in the area, which is on the West Hickman Creek watershed, flood despite improvements to the water drainage plan.

"We just feel like we need to know how water would be handled to meet everybody's satisfaction," he said.

Another big concern is traffic. McAtee said the Lowry-Nicholasville intersection was fifth-highest in the city for accidents last year. And Ware said it ranks first in "run red lights," according to city police statistics.

What will adding 100 or so more cars do to that, they wonder.

"We realize development will take place; we just want it to have the least impact on the quality of life," McAtee said.

The Lexington Fayette County Urban County Government's Board of Adjustment is scheduled to take up the zone-change request at a meeting at 1 p.m. Friday. Adjustment board staff recommended approval of the requested conditional-use permit, saying, "An extended-stay hotel is an appropriate transition between existing commercial development to the south and west, and the residential uses to the north and east."

The recommended approval was conditioned, however, on maintaining appropriate open space and tree preservation, and landscaping and screening.

Chris Westover, attorney for Cohen Realty, which is planning the development, said a stormwater expert is reviewing the plan, which the urban county government would have to sign off on "to ensure there will be no harmful impact on the neighborhood and houses. We are not allowed to make any existing situation worse. ... We intend to do the maximum possible within the bounds of our property to ensure there are no negative impacts on surrounding properties."

Ultimately, Westover said, this could be good for the neighborhood in that it will have less impact than another office building, and it could provide a service to the community, because an upscale extended-stay hotel is likely to be an attractive option for families of patients at nearby Central Baptist or University of Kentucky hospitals.

"Extended stay is not the same thing as a stand-alone hotel — there will be no bar, no restaurant," she said. "It's considered more residential, rather than conventional hotel use."

Cohen Realty has made some concessions in its plans, including relocating Dumpsters away from nearby houses. And they have hired renowned Kentucky arborist Dave Leonard to advise on care for the ancient bur oaks.

"Based on Dave's analysis, we moved some parking spaces to protect the trees. Dave would not sign off on any plan that would in any way injure the tree," Westover said. The plan is to leave about an acre of the property in greenspace, in large part to protect the trees.

Westover said Cohen Realty is working on additional landscaping for buffering.

That could mitigate another of Ware's chief concerns: screening. The neighborhood is asking for an 8-foot barrier fence with 12-foot evergreens to preserve privacy as best they can. "If we can't see it, hear it or smell it, we may be able to live with it," Ware said.