Aiken City Council denies new hotels, more than 60 jobs

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Monday, Oct. 8, 2012

AIKEN, S.C. -- Plans to build a Staybridge Suites and Holiday Inn Express in Aiken are dead for now.

Councilman Dick Dewar moved to deny the two proposed hotels at Whiskey Road at Stratford Drove.

Ultimately, they were denied in a 3-2 vote, with Councilwoman Gail Diggs and Mayor Fred Cavanaugh dissenting.

The proposed $30 million project would have created dozens of construction jobs and about 70 full-time jobs.

Dozens of residents of neighborhoods down Stratford Drive showed up to voice their concerns. The hotels would have had entrances/exits on Whiskey Road and Stratford Drive. Neighbors were concerned that this would create more congestion on Stratford Drive.

Others said traffic isn't a problem and didn't believe the hotels would change that. Developers said a traffic study showed the hotels would only increase traffic wait times by a couple seconds.

Ultimately, the 5 acres to be used for the hotels is just one parcel of a larger chunk of land also up for commercial development.

Residents, along with several council members, wanted a frontage road to alleviate future growth, but a road like that isn't in the concept plan.

Mayor Cavanaugh, whose motion to approve the plan failed because it wasn't seconded, said diverting traffic onto Stratford Drive would just make conditions safer. He told the room that everyone should have a chance to develop.

Still, several residents of Stratford argued that the concept plan would have a negative impact on the existing community, and a majority of council agreed.

Charles Holly, an Aiken County resident and owner of the land, left visibly upset. He said it likely isn't economically possible to build a frontage road, so the project may be dead. He had no comment about what will come next, if anything.

He'll have the immediate opportunity to return to council with an updated concept plan.

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