|Posted by Anne Siren on October 5, 2012 at 3:25 PM|
Lauderdale-By-The-Sea – After getting off to a rocky start with the rejection of their first applicant and listening to comments from commissioners and local hoteliers, staff proposed several changes to the town’s new Hotel Improvement Program.
Commissioners approved the changes Sept. 24 by a vote of 4-1, Vice Mayor Scot Sasser dissenting.
“We now have a stronger document and much clearer rules and guidelines,” Town Manager Connie Hoffmann told commissioners. When the program was first announced the rule was improvement must be visible from the street or the beach and the town budgeted $150,000 to match private investment, $1 for every $1 spent by the applicant. Hotels with 50 rooms or less designated as Superior Small Lodging properties were eligible for up to $25,000 in grants.
Now the new guidelines allow the applicant to use personal funds for interior improvements; the town’s share going only go to exterior upgrades and changes were made in the application process. The town is working now with design professionals and recommends the applicants meet with them before submitting an application. The grant amount was also lowered to $20,000.
Repairs to roofs have been taken out of allowed expenses as has replacing windows with hurricane-strength glass. [The application the commission recently rejected was for hurricane-strength windows.]
“The number one priority is that changes visibly improve the exterior view of the hotel,” Hoffmann said.
When residents objected to taxpayer money going to improve commercial operations, Hoffmann suggested allocating code enforcement fines to this program.
Sasser said the commission needs to decide who they are targeting with this program. “There is a saying that a rising tide lifts all boats. What is this program aimed at? Are we looking to lift all boats or just certain boats? This is a good idea, but it’s hard to manage. With our criteria are we helping the ones that already look nice and leaving out those that need the funds the most?” Sasser asked.
“Government doesn’t fix bad business,” Sasser continued. “Are we helping them not fail? I find it difficult any time government tries to fix business. This is getting intrusive by its nature.”
Commissioner Mark Brown suggested lowering the amount per grant to help more people and broadening the program beyond hotels but Sasser compared lowering the amount to “taking a deck chair off the Titanic… If you’re going to go with it, go full steam ahead,” he said.
He wondered if using code enforcement fines to fund this program would result in “everyone telling on their neighbors to get the money up.”
“Vice Mayor, everyone is already telling on their neighbor. I can attest to that,” Hoffmann responded.
Commissioner Stuart Dodd supported lowering the grant limit and liked the idea of code fines going to this program.
“Here we are with this program again. We’re going one step forward and two steps back,” said Commissioner Chris Vincent. “This is an incentive program. It’s a shot in the arm for hotels that can use a little uplift.”
Mayor Roseann Minnet said the program got off to a very rocky start when the request by the first applicant was not for changes that would visibly enhance the appearance of the hotel. She said staff followed guidelines that had been successful in other areas, such as Hollywood, Delray Beach and Pompano Beach.
“This is an excellent program,” Minnet said, adding that she favors keeping membership in the Superior Small Lodgings Association as a criteria.
Commissioners agreed fund the program through code enforcement fines. The town has received seven applications for the program.