Two important items in this morning's Standard-Examiner, regarding the Weber County Forum hot topic of the week, Ogden Properties LLC's Windsor Hotel rehabilitation project.
Ace Reporter Schwebke's morning story pronounces the project dead. We incorporate Mr. Schwebke's opening graphs:
OGDEN — The owners of the Windsor Hotel officially canceled plans Monday to renovate the historic inn because of a city council decision preventing the addition of a fourth floor.There will no doubt be plenty of second guessing about this; and we're quite certain there will be the usual flurry of Godfreyite letters to the Standard-Examiner, blaming the council for the failure of this project. When the smoke clears however, a troubling series of questions will remain: Why did the developer draw up plans and arrange financing for a project which clearly failed to comply with the existing zoning ordinance? If the developer was aware at the time of the purchase of the property that the addition of a penthouse would require a zoning variance, why wasn't this mentioned (or made a contingent part of the deal) at the time the proposed transaction was first presented to the council? Inasmuch as the developer's proposed project merely required a single exception to existing zoning rules, why did the administration draw up a new ordinance which would apply to the entire Historic 25th Street District? Why did Boss Godfrey's proposed ordinance contain language which would have stripped zoning approval authority from the council, and have vested it in an unelected advisory body, i.e., the Landmarks Commission? And last but not least... is there anybody who really believes that the developer had its loan all lined up... taking into account the current condition of the U.S. credit market?
Ogden Properties LLC, which owns the Windsor, lost its construction loan for the project because the council last week refused to approve a zoning amendment that could have allowed the additional floor to be built.
“In today’s market, lenders are trying to get out of construction loans,” said Dave Harmer, Ogden’s director of community and economic development. He tried Monday to persuade Ogden Properties to reconsider its decision. “They had financing ready to go, and then it all fell apart because of the council action,” he said. In addition, Ogden Properties has asked the city, which provided $288,000 in incentives last year to help the Windsor renovations move forward, if it plans to exercise its option to buy the hotel back, Harmer said. If the city chooses not to exercise that option, it forfeits any right to the incentives it provided, he said. Stuart Sheldon, an official with Ogden Properties, said his company is disappointed that the Windsor project won’t be undertaken. “It’s dead, so there is nothing for us to say,” he said Monday in a phone interview. “It’s sad and frustrating, but that’s the end of it.” The Windsor project was dealt a fatal blow last week when the city council rejected by a 5-2 vote an amendment that would provide exemptions to a 45-foot height restriction for Historic 25th Street buildings.
So many questions... so few answers.
We also learn this morning that Councilwoman Gochnour has issued a written apology to the Landmarks Commission for ill-considered remarks uttered last week, evidently in the heat of passion:
“I went a step too far in my frustration at the end of a long and exhausting week,” she said in the e-mail obtained by the Standard-Examiner.While we duly applaud Ms. Gochnour for her graciousness in reaching out to the Landmarks Commission, in a truly classy effort to smooth over some ruffled feathers, we nevertheless urge Ms. Gochnour and all five council grownups to remain vigilant. As long-time Godfrey watchers are well aware, our thoroughly Machiavellian Mayor Matt, regards apologies as acts of submission -- evidence of weakness -- which will henceforth require further acts of contrition (groveling.)
“And, I also want you to know I have great respect for the Landmarks Commission and all the excellent work you’ve done through the years in furthering Ogden’s historic preservation efforts.”
There hasn't been a week during the 3-1/2 years we've been Godfrey watching that we've been more proud of our city council's performance, by the way, than during this week's Windsor Hotel matter. The council has recently demonstrated a profound dedication to protecting the lumpencitizens' interests. Now is no time to let down their guard, we believe.
And lest our readers are temped to believe that this is the end of this story, we'll advise that we received this tip from a trusted source this morning:
"Sources close to me indicate Bob Geiger submitted a GRAMA request to the Utah State Historic Preservation Office for all correspondence between Barbara Murphy, of the office, and Ogden City."
The plot sickens, gentle readers. The Godfreyite's Council smear campaign which we warned about on Friday, is apparently well underway.
Have at it, gentle readers.
We'd love to get your takes on all this.