Hotel Debate Gets Weird

The hotel proposed for the southeast corner of Lake Street and Emerson Avenue has inspired dueling petitions (pro-hotel vs no-hotel). The petition battle has become TV-newsworthy. A shadowy group has even put out a pretend 30-second ad against it.

Site of proposed hotel. Lake Street in background.

Debate over the hotel took a turn for the weird at a December CARAG meeting where a woman distributed an anti-hotel flyer made to look like official information from the neighborhood organization. The same woman, a former CARAG board chair, was also seen taking zoomed-in pictures of individual meeting attendees. In January, a male resident threatened a CARAG board member with legal action if she supported the hotel. Last week, attendees at a meeting of the CARAG neighborhood association voted to oppose the hotel.

I wish I could give you a fuller report of debate in the Wedge. LHENA’s Zoning and Planning Committee, after not holding any monthly meetings since August of last year, held a meeting on January 13th without sending me an email. This is strange, because I’m a member of the committee, and up until now I have been on the committee’s email list (I’m also a LHENA board member).

While I wasn’t able to attend the committee meeting, we know at least a few CARAG residents got a special invitation, because they were using the fact of LHENA’s opposition to bolster their case against the hotel at the following week’s CARAG meeting. I was able to confirm at last week’s LHENA board meeting that there were CARAG residents at the committee meeting. I would imagine the content of their presentation reflects what’s in the anti-hotel petition, but we’ll have to wait for the meeting minutes. LHENA’s board voted (6-5) to go with the committee’s recommendation to oppose the hotel.

I should emphasize how unusual it is to have non-residents attend a LHENA meeting that was so un-publicized and irregular that I had no idea it was happening. I pay a crazy amount of attention to this stuff. LHENA didn’t make an ounce of effort to gauge the opinion of actual residents about this hotel before voting against it. It’s instructive about how insular the neighborhood association process can be; non-residents are invited because they oppose development, while an actual committee member is excluded because he’s supportive. And it’s one more reason you should take the results of this process with a grain of salt.