Monday, July 4, 2022

Airport hotel requests variance to build nearly three times taller than zoning regulation

A Crowne Plaza hotel proposed for the ILM’s campus is requesting a 65-foot height variance from the county. (Courtesy/ILM Airport Hotel Partners)

NEW HANOVER COUNTY — A proposed hotel set to transform the Wilmington International Airport campus is requesting a height variance. The county’s technical review committee will review plans Wednesday prior to the application going before the board of adjustment next week.

A six-story Crowne Plaza hotel is in the works for Airport Boulevard, near the main terminal. ILM Airport Hotel Partners  — an LLC based out of New York connected to AC Hotel Developers — is constructing a 95-foot, 18,570-square-foot building. However, the maximum height in the airport commerce district is 35 feet, about as tall as a standard telephone poll.

READ MORE: NY developers to invest $40M in upscale hotel on ILM campus

ILM Airport Hotel Partners will invest $40 million into the construction of the 150-room luxury hotel, which will include a restaurant and a 5,000-square-foot event space. Developers Andrew and Chip Weiss announced last month they will bring the Crowne Plaza brand to Wilmington — the first of its kind in the area.

The airport authority approved April 6 a 35-year ground lease for 4.69 acres of its campus. The proposed development is expected to create 125 permanent jobs for the area.

The application states without the height variance, “construction of the hotel as designed and intended cannot be accomplished.” It also claims it’s not economically feasible to build a hotel within the 35-foot height standard; the reason being, 80% of the leased site will be covered by parking spaces. 

To meet the height requirement and retain its current amenities, developers would have to construct a much wider building. In turn, it would require them to also lease a substantially larger amount of space for parking.

“A smaller building to maintain the same subleased area and the subsequent reduction in the number of hotel rooms would also make the hotel economically unfeasible and would defeat the intended purpose of bringing a hotel to ILM,” the application reports.

According to the county’s unified development ordinance, the airport commerce district is for business and industrial purposes, offering distribution and operations compatible with airport facilities. It states height restrictions are vital near the airfield, as obstruction impacts air travel, including take-off and landing visibility. Any permitted variance to the guidelines may require developers to install and maintain specific lighting and markings.

The hotel developers’ variance application states the site of the proposed structure is safely located away from flight paths and corridors. 

The county also recently amended its ordinance to provide height for hotels up to 100 feet in the I-1 (light industrial) and B-2 (larger business) districts.

The hotel project must still be approved by the Federal Aviation Administration to ensure aviation and public safety.

CMJW Architects captured the Weisses’ vision of a unique airport hotel, to include a rooftop bar and rows of glass windows made to look like ribbons. The building will include rounded edges with a metal exterior.

A public hearing will be held during the next board of adjustment meeting on May 24.


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