First "condotel" in Morehead City

MOREHEAD CITY, CARTERET COUNTY - Morehead City is possibly getting its first hotel and condominium. Harborview Towers got the green light to become a "condotel" when council members approved zoning changes for the project Tuesday night.

Council members voted 3-2 on the type of permit developers can use to build "condotels".

Council members described a "condotel" as a hotel and condominium that allows for short and long term renting.

The vote allows Harborview Towers to be renovated. The fate of this former senior center has been up in the air since it went bankrupt last August.

Some residents said they are worried about the "condotel" bringing more traffic than the area can handle. Developers have been working with the city council for several months to convert this facility.

George Ballou and Harvey Walker voted against the zoning changes, but stressed they are for Harborview Towers becoming a "condotel" and the development of downtown. They said they just wanted to use a special-use permit, which allows for a more cautious approach that offers an appeal process for residents.

The other three council members voted for permitted use. Which means in the future as long as specific guidelines are followed developers, can build "condotels" in certain zoning areas without having to go through everything Harborview Tower developers had to.

Downtown Morehead City Revitalization Association Director Tom Kies said developers with Harborview Towers would have most likely pulled out of the project if there were any more delays.

"If we moved cautiously we would have lost this opportunity and we may never have had another opportunity to have another hotel in downtown Morehead City," Kies said.

Kies said having a hotel in downtown Morehead city will help create more foot traffic in the area for businesses.

"There's a real need for a "condotel" and hotel space in Morehead City. Right now, we don't have that. This gives us the opportunity," Kies said.

A rehabilitation center is also connected to Harborview Towers. After the vote Tuesday, they told us  they're not too happy with the decision of the building becoming "condotel" instead of just a condominium because of the transient traffic.  However, they said they will be good neighbors and hope traffic will not inconvenience their patients.

Morehead City Planning Director, Linda Staab, said council members will have a second reading on the vote next month. Staab said after that, any developers should be able to apply for a permit to build a "condotel" in the zoned area.

Previous Story: Harborview Towers in Morehead City closed as a long term senior-living facility in August of 2013. Now plans have been announced by a pair of Carteret County investors to turn the building into an upscale, downtown hotel.

Tom Kies, director of the Morehead City Revitalization Association, says the project is a no-brainer. There is currently no lodging anywhere on the Morehead City waterfront and Kies says it's something downtown desperately needs.

"Any downtown redevelopment revolves around a hotel and that's something we've been after for years," said Kies. 

But the proposal is getting some push back, mainly from neighboring Harborview Rehabilitation Center, which is connected to the portion of the building where residents used to live. A rehab center spokeswoman says noise, traffic, and the safety of their elderly patients would all be put in jeopardy if a hotel opens next door.

"Our main concern is that we're physically connected. We don't think that a hotel, motel or business connected to a rehab, long term nursing facility is going to work," said Colleen Wells, Marketing Director for the Harborview Rehab Center.

The site is currently zoned for "office professional' development but it would have to be re-zoned for "downtown business" development. The investors have put in a request to the city for the change. Morehead City Planning Director, Linda Staab, says, at the their Tuesday meeting, the board voted to recommend denial of the request to the town board.

"We're not talking about a bar. We're not talking about a tattoo parlor, this would be an upscale boutique hotel. I would be proud to have it it my neighborhood," said Kies.

The planning boards recommendation is no indication of how town council will vote. Council members will consider the proposal at their June 10th meeting.

Kies says he biggest fear if this project doesn't move forward is that the building will sit vacant for years.

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