By Paul T. Choate
Dec. 19, 2012. Ashok Patel, the owner of numerous hotels in the Boone area, spoke during public comment at the Dec. 13 Town Council meeting and was critical of the Town of Boone for hurting his family’s business and the local hotel industry.
Patel focused mainly on the situation regarding the now closed Scottish Inn on Blowing Rock road, which was one of Patel’s hotels.
In the spring of 2011 the Town of Boone condemned the Scottish Inn while the property had an $850,000 mortgage on it. Patel said the entire ground floor of the hotel flooded three times from street runoff in the span of three months soon after the property was condemned.
“My family was forced to sign a contract to sell the flood prone commercial property for less than what we paid for it,” Patel said. “The town told me that by August 2012 a new UDO (Unified Development Ordinance) with an overlay distract that encompasses my family’s property would be in place. To this date this has not happened. I am afraid the developers will walk away from the project.”
Patel has been ordered by the town to demolish the Scottish Inn by April 2013. However, Patel said that he cannot demolish the structure without permission from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Boone Planning and Inspections Department due to the property being in a flood zone. Additionally, Patel said he cannot get permission from FEMA without first telling them what would be built there in the future.
“When can we expect the UDO with the overlay district to be in place,” Patel asked. “How much time will you give to permit the demolition of the Scottish Inn once your new UDO with the special overlay district is approved? Or are you still wanting an April 30, 2013 demolition? If so, how do we get the demolition permitted without changing flood maps for Boone until the new development takes place?”
Patel said losing the Scottish Inn has affected the cash flow of his family’s businesses and they were unable to refinance a five-year balloon loan on the La Quinta Inn & Suites and Sleep Inn. Additionally, he said his family lost the Hampton Inn to the bank and is now being sued by the Hampton Inn franchise for over $500,000 for liquidation damages on their franchise agreement.
“Hotel revenues in Boone in 2011 are down 16 percent and expenses are up considerably from what they were in 2011,” Patel said. “Soon the hotel industry in Boone will change forever and Boone will never be the same.”
The Town of Boone’s project priorities were also called into question by Patel, who argued that they are not doing the right things to help Boone’s hotel and tourism industry.
“Instead of promoting Boone as a tourism destination, taxes are being used and considered to promote pet projects like your new theater project and build the town infrastructure like your new Planning and Inspections office downtown – the very office that shut down one of our hotels that catered to tourists,” Patel said. “Basically, this is the story of how the lack of a municipal storm water management policy in this town and the unrestricted rampant growth of Appalachian State University has destroyed a family business that took 30 years to build.”
Due to being read during public comment, the Town Council did not have to reply to Patel’s statement and chose not to during the meeting.